company is banning alcohol at its holiday party, even if we buy it ourselves

A reader writes:

My wife’s employer is hosting a Christmas party at a local Mexican restaurant where they will be paying for everyone’s meal. They announced yesterday that they forbid anyone to drink alcohol at this establishment, even if they purchase the beverages themselves. (The owners of the company are Mormons who do not drink, but they employ many non-Mormons who do not uphold that standard.)

There are many people in the company who have taken offense to this, as they feel as adults of drinking age, they should be able to go the bar and get their own beverage outside of the employer’s gifted meal.

This doesn’t sit right with me and I’m wondering if her employer can indeed do this. Also, what about the couple who has a cocktail before the party and the employer gets suspicious of whether or not the alcohol on their breath was purchased at the restaurant?

Sure, they can do that. The hosts of a party get to set the terms of their hospitality.

Whether or not they should do that in business setting is a different question. It does feel a bit paternalistic to “forbid” adults from purchase legally sold beverages with their own money … but it’s the company’s prerogative if they want to do it this way. Throwing a dry party isn’t really an outrage.

I do think they’d have been better served by presenting it a little differently. “We’d like to keep the party alcohol-free and request your help in that” isn’t a crazy statement — people might not be thrilled about it, but I’d imagine most people would be okay with it. But something like “Drinking alcohol at the party is forbidden, even if purchased with your own money” of course comes across as far more heavy-handed and is a recipe for eye rolls.

As for your hypothetical about smelling alcohol on the breath of someone who had a drink beforehand … I doubt it’s going to come to that, and I think you might be getting a little carried away with outrage. It’s unlikely that they’re going to be policing it to that level.

Ultimately, the deal is this: The company is throwing the party, they’ve requested that people not drink, and it’s polite to comply with your host’s request in that regard (just like you presumably wouldn’t drink at, say, a dry wedding). If it’s terribly onerous, you always have the option of not going, but it’s really just a few hours. You can always break out the tequila afterwards if you feel inclined.

{ 475 comments… read them below }

  1. Lily in NYC*

    I think if your bosses/party hosts are Mormon, then it would be breathtakingly rude to drink at this party. It’s one frigging night!

    1. Kate*

      Agreed. I have religious friends who insist people drink even if they arent and know others who don’t say anything but are uncomfortable with it and I don’t out of respect.

      Same as when I have dinner with friends who are alcoholics. I just don’t need to drink that badly to make someone else uncomfortable.

      Is this really the hill to die on?

      1. Allison*

        I take the same approach when going out to eat with people who keep kosher. Even if they swear it’s okay to get the shrimp scampi, I decide against it, because it seems shellfish of me to eat that stuff in front of them.

            1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

              For the first time, I am extremely sad that there is no “like” button under comments.

        1. Erica*

          Yes, I love a good yeasty French bread, but on Passover with my Jewish friends, I rise to the occasion…

          1. The Cosmic Avenger*

            Really, it’s not enough to only be considerate of your Jewish friends just one night of the year. If you really cared about them, you wouldn’t let them ever see you eat even a treif of non-kosher food!

        2. Blue_eyes*

          As the wife of someone who keeps kosher, you should go ahead and order the shrimp scampi. Especially if your friends specifically say that it doesn’t bother them. Unlike many religions, Jews typically have no expectations that non-Jews follow their religious rules. Personally, I will eat non-kosher food at restaurants with my husband there, but I don’t order non-kosher food when his family is paying because that seems rude. Just my two cents. Good pun.

      2. Koko*

        Last summer, a relative of mine got married. She and the groom met in AA and a considerable portion of the guest list was AA friends; others were members of their evangelical church where temperance is not uncommon. So they held a dry wedding, even though normally they’re fine with people drinking around them when someone else is hosting the event.

        Since I wasn’t going to know anyone there except a few family members, and I knew it’d be a super religious service and I’m not at all religious, I actually contemplated smuggling a flask into the wedding to make it a little easier to bear. For about 2 minutes. Then I realized how mortified my relative would be if her guests found me out and told her that a member of her family was so unable to go without alcohol for a few hours that I’d gone to the length of secretly smuggling alcohol in. I had no desire to embarrass my relative in this way so I sucked it up and made it through the wedding…and then took my dad and I back to our hotel bar after the reception transitioned from eating to dancing.

    2. UKAnon*

      This is true, but it isn’t even necessarily anything to do with their religion. I can see some great business reasons for requesting no drinking at company events – we’d probably all miss out on some great stories, which is a downside for us, but one good reason for starters!

      1. Jen S. 2.0*

        +1. I can understand avoiding alcohol at a company event, Mormons or no. I love cocktails, but…it’s one meal. I can go without a drink for one evening, and if I can’t, then I don’t have to attend.

        (Note: I feel the same about dry/meatless weddings and the like. I drink and I eat meat, but I can go without whatever it is for ONE meal of my life.)

      2. Liz*

        Ditto. The religious aspect of it is more or less irrelevant for me. I’ve never had a problem with coworkers drinking at a company party, but some of my sister’s stories… *shiver.*

        It’s only one night.

      3. My two cents...*

        it also puts a LOT of liability on the hosting company to insure no one is over-served, and everyone gets home safely.

        1. Scott M*

          Not if the employees buy their own alcohol at the restaurant bar. Then the liability is on the restauraunt employees.

          1. Leah*

            There is liability if someone gets inappropriate and harasses either a colleague or a staff member of the restaurant. This is a lot more likely if there is booze involved. A lot of workplace law attorneys will advise inviting family and nixing booze as a way to keep people from shenanigans.

    3. Cat*

      Wait a minute, this is different than a private party. It’s not rude to drink alcohol at a company party just because your hosts don’t. Likewise, my boss doesn’t eat pork for religious reasons but I don’t think it’s rude for me to eat it at our holiday party.

      Here it’s different because it’s explicitly a dry party but I think that’s different than it being rude because they’re Mormon.

      1. Helka*

        This is true. My family is religiously non-drinking, but when they entertain (and they do, very often; my parents are deeply involved in their community’s social life) they serve alcohol in order to be polite to their guests who do drink. It’s also a great way to accept and then reuse all the host gifts of wine they receive, rather than broken-record their way through “Oh, thank you, but we don’t…” every time the occasion arises.

        That said, if they changed the rules and requested guests not bring alcohol to a party, it would be pretty appalling to disregard that. Absent specific very pressing needs, ignoring your hosts’ requests is a very, very rude thing to do.

      2. Dan*

        Yeah… honestly, when it comes to matters regarding what I eat or drink, it’s my body, my business. If you’ve got issues that prohibit you from consuming those things, that’s your problem, not mine.

        I will cut alcoholics some slack and not drink in front of them if they ask. But religious/personal choice stuff is just that, *your* personal choice.

        1. Koko*

          I think hosting is different from just being present at the same party. The hosts are entitled to set the tone of the party. If they want to make it a costume party, you should come in costume. If they ask people to bring a dish, you should bring a dish. If they ask people to abstain from alcohol for the evening, you should abstain from alcohol for the evening. All of these requests would be inappropriate from a fellow peer/attendee, but not from the hosts. If you don’t want to attend the type of party the hosts are cultivating, you’re free not to attend.

          1. Dan*

            I’m also entitled not to go if I don’t like the tone. At a true “party” I can skip it.

            But this isn’t really about the party itself, as much as it’s about the boss dictating what people do with their own money and body outside of work hours.

            I’m also thinking back to a recent post about a business owner prohibiting pork on the premises for like a week because of some religious thing. That didn’t sit well with me either.

            Your religion = your problem, not mine.

            1. Koko*

              It is about the party, though. The boss isn’t saying whether they can drink anywhere else other than at a party they’re hosting. Either the party is mandatory and the boss is in the clear to set behavioral guidelines because it’s therefore a work obligation, not a social event….or the party is optional and OP’s wife doesn’t have to go if she doesn’t want to, and the bosses can set behavioral guidelines because they’re the hosts and that’s how hospitality etiquette works.

      3. Amtelope*

        If there’s alcohol provided at the party but the hosts don’t drink, I don’t think it’s rude for employees to drink. But if I were out to dinner with a boss who didn’t drink, I wouldn’t order a drink unless specifically invited to have one. I think it’s wise to take the boss’s cue about whether drinking is okay at a work function, and here, when the bosses have been very clear that it’s not, I can’t imagine why people would even think about getting themselves drinks from the bar.

    4. Turanga Leela*

      I actually don’t think this would be rude at all—I’m respectful of other people’s dietary restrictions, but that doesn’t mean I need to adopt them myself. That said, while I would be slightly irritated if I were the OP, I don’t think it’s a huge problem to save the margaritas for the after-party.

      1. AMT*

        Agreed. I think it’s a bit rude of the owners to hold everyone to their dietary/alcohol restrictions. It’s not the same thing as hosting a party where alcohol/meat/shellfish/whatever isn’t served. They’re going to a restaurant where alcohol IS served (and at a time when it would be reasonable to want a celebratory drink) but forbidding a table full of adults to order it. I wouldn’t confront them or flout the request, but it definitely has a paternalistic feel to it.

          1. AMT*

            We don’t know that. The OP gave the impression that this was because the owners felt religiously uncomfortable allowing people to drink. Even if it is a liability issue, it’s misguided—I’ve never heard of a company being sued because they allowed an employee to order a drink at a restaurant.

          2. Pennalynn Lott*

            I doubt the company would be liable since (A) the employees are the ones buying, not the business, and (B) it’s in a public restaurant, not on private property. If anyone would be held liable for a drunk driver, it would be the bartender at the restaurant. [Which I think is stupid, but it’s the law.]

      2. AnonyMouse*

        Yeah, I don’t know if other people with dietary restrictions feel differently but I avoid some foods for religious reasons and I would 100% not care if someone ate them in front of me. I could see alcohol being a bit different though, if only just because it’s a bit annoying to be around drunk people when you’re not drinking…and ham sandwiches have no similar effects!

        1. AMT*

          I hate to be around ham sandwich eaters when I don’t have a sandwich of my own. Those gleeful, smug, mustard-smeared faces…

          1. Ted Mosby*


            this is how i feel about being a vegetarian!
            i hate when people meat in front of me… it makes me want a burger.

    5. Steve G*

      Yeah it’s one night, but for many people parties are the only time they drink. In fact, the only difference between a late lunch with my coworkers and a Christmas party is the alcohol. If they aren’t serving it, they should have some sort of activity to keep the adults occupied (bingo/raffles/games, etc.). Most adults are uncomfortable just going somewhere and sitting there, some sort of social lubricant is needed, be it alcohol or an activity

      1. mm-oregon*

        I work for a non-profit organization that provides mental health as well ad addiction services for alcohol, drugs and gambling. Not only can we not have alcohol and our company gatherings, but we can’t do bingo/raffles/games, etc because it could trigger someone to have a relapse (or so we are told by our clinical directors). I am on one of the planning committees and it is a struggle to find a way to get people to come to our picnic. But I do agree with many of the posters who say it’s only one event. Most people can make it a few hours, and even have fun, without a drink or a prize drawing.

        1. Ted Mosby*

          At my brother’s rehab they do a lot of concerts or casual sports (like kickball) and serve cokes and hotdogs. people love them!

      2. April*

        Most adults, I would hope, would be well able to do more than “just sit there.”

        Games can be fun. Alcohol has its advantages. But any well adjusted adult ought to be able to be pleasant and sociable over a meal, irrespective of whether alcohol/games are served with said meal. That is a basic life skill. Whatever happened to simply enjoying the company and conversation of other humans?

    6. Artemesia*

      I don’t see it as rude to expect to enjoy a beer with the Mexican food because the bosses happen to be Mormons. It is not a personal invitation to their home, it is a party for lots of people who are not Mormon. On the other hand, their party, their rules. And I suspect that with an off site party and people driving some lawyer in the organization is afraid of liabilities involved with DUI.

    7. Vicki*

      Why would it be rude?
      It’s at a restaurant, not a private home.
      It’s a work “party”, not a private party.

      And because it’s your “boss” making this requirement, there’s a power dynamic that is NOT “polite”.

  2. BRR*

    It’s also a potential liability for the company if people drink. While I agree they could have phrased it differently, is it really that big of a deal to go a few hours without a drink?

    1. JayDee*

      This. My guess is that it has as much, if not more, to do with liability concerns as with the religious beliefs of the company owners.

      That said, if you cannot handle attending a party without alcohol, or if you feel the need to have a cocktail before the party, you might want to think about your relationship with alcohol.

      1. BRR*

        Not to mention the horror stories of drinking at work parties (has their been some kind of user response post for either most horrific holiday parties or most horrific actions at holiday parties).

        1. Sherm*

          I once listened to a radio program where people were calling in with their holiday party horror stories. Just wow. It seems that whatever has happened at the wildest fraternity party has also happened at a holiday party. The more that alcohol turns you into a party animal, the less you should probably drink at such a party.

        2. LJL*

          If not, there should be a post of horrible work holiday stories: parties, inappropriate gifts, and the like. Alison?

            1. Judy*

              I think it should just be horrible work parties. I’ve not really worked at places that have holiday parties, but tend to have parties after the release of product X, etc.

        3. JAL*

          All I can think of when I hear “alcohol” and “work party” is the AAM question where the persons boyfriend was assaulted by the drunk coworker. That would be enough for me to say no alcohol at a work related function

      2. SJP*

        Jaydee, I’m gonna have to disagree with your last line of your statement there.. and this is coming from someone who has been sober and without alcohol for 9 years now (and no i’m not a recovering alcoholic, or had a bad experience, I am just not a drinker) but I have to disagree.
        A lot of people I know like to have a beverage or two to help them loosen up from being shy or not a very conversational person. Or they feel like socialising with work colleagues outside of work very stressful and socially difficult.
        Hanging out with work people who they work with, but not talk about non work stuff, can be really stressful for some people and by having a cocktail or two beforehand just makes them easier to talk to or construct a conversation and make them feel more socially relaxed. That said it’s not like they’re using alcohol as a crutch or anything (like alcoholics do as they feel like Need it to function at any level), just a lubricant for being social
        So yea, I’d say go and have a cocktail or two beforehand but don’t have enough to make you say or do anything stupid in my opinion

        1. MsM*

          As a shy person, I’m going to have to disagree with this line of reasoning. If I couldn’t function at a networking event without a drink in me – even one as low-stakes as a holiday party – then I would be worried the alcohol had become too much of a crutch. There are bound to be other situations in the future where it won’t be available at all (breakfast meetings, for instance), and the more practice I can get for dealing with those, the better.

          1. Koko*

            That’s the difference between “having a cocktail or two beforehand just makes them easier to talk to or construct a conversation and make them feel more socially relaxed” and “couldn’t function at a networking event without a drink in me.” SJP is saying alcohol can be a nice-to-have, not that it’s a must-have.

          2. Ted Mosby*

            No one said anything about not being able to function. We all need to stop extrapolating emotions and issues that aren’t here.

          1. Ted Mosby*

            There’s absolutely no reason to assume that anyone would be driving over the legal limit. You might as well say that no one should drink outside their home.

            There are countless ways to drink, go to a party, and still be safe.

        2. Adonday Veeah*

          Gotta respectfully disagree. Using alcohol as a “lubricant” for being social, for making talking easier, or to make someone feel more relaxed does sound very crutch-like to me.

          1. Erica*

            I think party hosts should be able to set any rules and serve any food/drink (or lack thereof) they want.
            But I really hate the sloppy thinking of “using drinking as a social lubricant = alcoholic.” Here are some other things that are social lubricants:
            – board games/party games
            – cooking together or doing other physical work so that you have something to focus on besides chit chat
            – structured conversation starters, particularly great for introverts who are bad at small talk
            – sports fandom (non-fans feel as left out when this is the sole focus of conversation as non-drinkers do when everyone else is drinking)

            Are these crutches? Sure, in that they help people who aren’t naturally comfortable with the “stand around and make small talk” model of a party have a better time than they would otherwise. But if someone is used to, say, talking about sports at company parties, the word comes down that sports talk will be banned, and they express disappointment, it doesn’t follow that they’re an addict who needs to start going to Sports Fans Anonymous.

              1. Erica*

                What is the relevant difference? And if your answer is “one is physically addictive,” that doesn’t answer the question in regards to people who are not physically addicted.

                1. Zillah*

                  When I drink too much, I get very giggly and express my love for everything and/or spend the next day vomiting. I have never had that reaction to a board game.

                2. Connie-Lynne*

                  Exactly this.

                  When we were first dating, my now-husband refused to go to any party that didn’t involve boardgames. He didn’t know how to socialize any other way and he was incredibly uncomfortable without having the comfort of boardgames to play. It was bad enough that to get him to come to my birthday party — in a bowling alley — I had to agree to let him play boardgames. He was ill at our wedding because at his bachelor party the night before, he literally stayed up until 4am playing a series of “just one more games.”

                  He was definitely using boardgames as a social crutch, but I would never have described him as a boardgame addict, he just very very much preferred not to socialize without them. Lots of people use alcohol the way my husband used boardgames, and they’re not alcoholics — they’re just way more comfortable socializing with a drink.

                3. April*

                  Erica, the difference is that the board game or activity, the “conversation starter” questions, all of those directly provide a topic to talk about and something to do. Whereas the primary purpose of alcohol isn’t usually to provide a topic of conversation. :) Nor something to do (unless raising a glass to your lips counts as “something to do” in which case, it could just as well be a glass of water milk or pepsi, right?).

                  Alcohol can have a socially lubricating effect but the mechanism is entirely different. It doesn’t actually change the situation itself, just a person’s feelings or attitude towards the situation, yes, by chemical effects in the brain. I prefer to actually make the situation itself more interesting and fun than just provide a chemical that will make a tedious or stressful situation bearable because of altering the brain’s perceptions of the still-unchanged situation.

            1. Ted Mosby*

              PGA. Party Gamers Anonymous.

              It got to the point that I just couldn’t even go to work without doing an icebreaker with my secretary.

          2. Dan*

            I’m an avid poker player, and when I first started, I got really, really nervous. You could see my hands shake when I was placing bets. You could read my hands by looking at my face. That’s, really, really bad in poker.

            A couple of drinks would take the edge off, and I’d play well. After awhile, I got comfortable with it and didn’t need to take the edge off, but at first, I did.

            1. Mister Pickle*

              Heh. For some people, alcohol is like a lowpass filter for their nervous system.

              If the lack of alcohol is an issue, one could always pull a Lester Burnham and go burn one out back by the dumpster.


              My personal take on this – which I don’t expect anyone else to agree with, and that’s okay – is that you can call it a party, a world’s fair, a picnic, or a rodeo, but it’s still a work event. And you don’t get high at work.

              (there may be a small number of jobs that are an exception to this rule, such as … ummm … I got nothin’. Fast food?)

          3. Steve G*

            Right, but many people decide that if they don’t have the crutch, the aren’t going to certain parties (like a spouse’s office party), so it certainly isn’t a useless crutch.

          4. Koko*

            There’s a difference between something that makes a job/task easier to do, and something that you can’t do the job/task without. Alcohol can be beneficial to the process without being necessary, and people can legitimately prefer the easier method without being dependent on the easier process and incapable of doing it the harder way.

        3. Lyssa*

          I think that there’s a difference between “would like” and is dependent on here. Would I like it? Sure. Am I going to be distressed if it’s not available? That’s a problem.

        4. themmases*

          I don’t know, I’m a very shy person and I do find that conversations with new people flow more freely after I have a drink. If I were going to a party I didn’t really want to go to, or where I knew no one, I would certainly prefer to be able to have a glass of wine at that event. But it’s a big leap from that pleasant side effect to deliberately having a drink or two (!) before even going to an event. If someone I knew were doing that, I would be worried about them.

          Also, if I’m really feeling shy and out of place at an event I will often not drink, because I find possibly being one of the only drinkers, deciding what to order, and generally fitting in more anxiety-producing than talking to strangers sober. I think unless an event is truly awful, people naturally tend to loosen up more and learn about each other over the course of the evening whether they are drinking or not– it’s the whole reason for getting together. It’s a mistake to give alcohol all the credit for that.

        5. My two cents...*

          when you have a drink to ‘loosen up’ or ‘settle your nerves’, that’s bad. that’s self-medicating anxiety and/or stress. a dry holiday party is a tiny bummer…but HEY FREE FOOD DUDES.

          1. Katie the Fed*

            I fail to see how that’s “bad.” If someone drinks every time they feel stressed and cannot cope otherwise, that’s a problem. But if someone enjoys having a drink or two and finds it helps loosen them up, that’s really not an issue. Nobody is saying anything about HAVING to have a drink. Just enjoying it.

            I think people are bringing a lot of baggage and assumptions into this discussion.

          2. Pennalynn Lott*

            When you have to have a cup of coffee to start your day, or make it through your afternoon at work, that’s bad. That’s self-medicating, which is always bad.

            1. fposte*

              Is it always bad, though? I don’t think so– winding down with a soothing cup of tea is also self-medicating, for instance, and I don’t think that’s problematic; taking aspirin is definitely self-medicating, and that’s okay. I also think a caffeine bump is okay. I think the problem is when you’re using substance A to mask a disorder or problem that really should be addressed directly rather than indirectly– if you’re drinking rather than treating an anxiety disorder, for instance, or relying on caffeine instead of actually going to bed.

              1. Melissa*

                I think Pennalynn Lott was using this language to try to point out the problem in ‘My two cents…’ comment about self-medicating always being bad.

        6. JayDee*

          I think we are talking about two different levels on a scale of negative relationships with alcohol. Just because someone isn’t getting blackout drunk on a regular basis or using alcohol to feel a basic level of functionality doesn’t mean that the relationship isn’t bad. I’m not saying people should never drink. But if it’s something that you feel you need – at any level, even if it’s not a pervasive, daily need – then it has the potential to be a problem.

      3. Erica*

        While I generally agree with you, there’s an important difference between “cannot handle attending any ol’ party without alcohol” and “find that attending OH GOD IT’S THE COMPANY PARTY KILL ME NOW is made slightly less awkward/more fun by alcohol.”

      4. Rose*

        Or if you can’t host a party without insisting everyone follow your religious rules at it, you might want to rethink your relationship with religion.

        I don’t think the issue is so much NEEDING to drink, but telling grownups what they can and cannot drink during hours they’re not being paid for. I would think it was different if they were renting out a hall or hosting at their home, but it’s not really a party in that sense. It’s a dinner, and alcohol will be served all around them.

        I do think there are plenty of legit reasons for a company to do this. If they don’t want to pay for drinks, having people order them or go up to the bar might get confusing, the checks might get mixed up, or it might feel weirdly cheap to have to go through and say “I’ll pay for this, but not for that.” I still think

        1) they should have made this reasoning more clear
        2) everyone needs to not jump down OPs throat about being an alcoholic

        1. SJP*

          Rose – THIS. So this! The first part hits the nail on the head for me completely.
          Yes it’s the companies party, but I can see why the resentment from the staff and partners is coming from. They’re grown adults, not being paid for that time and they have every right to drink. So they should be able to if they want to!

          1. Green*

            I find it odd that it is OP’s spouse who is so hung up on the serving of booze at a work event that isn’t even his own. Just decline the invitation.

            The only issue is that some of the guests have a different preference than the hosts. I might prefer to eat Chinese food. Or something else on the menu that’s not included in the event menu. Or I prefer queso all to myself and don’t like other people touching “my” chips. Or at a boozy party and they’re serving white instead of red, I might want white. But if I feel so strongly about any of those things, I shouldn’t go. (Having come from a very boozy work environment–like day drinking several times a week, everything on the company dime–it’s still considered rude to order off-menu or pay for something yourself at a work event because you like something better than what’s on offer. It can be considered insulting and can just draw negative attention to yourself.)

            If I felt I needed to go and they didn’t serve food I liked (or that met my dietary restrictions), I ate in advance or ate afterwards. If I didn’t like the booze on offer, I got a ginger ale. I don’t like to have my choices limited any more than anybody else does, but I can handle it for an hour or two.

      5. Ted Mosby*

        Host liability actually wouldn’t apply in this situation. If it did, bars would be out of business. Social host laws only apply if you’re the one throwing the party or serving the alcohol. So, if you had the party in the company break room and brought a keg, you would be liable. At a bar or country club, not so much.

        1. Green*

          There are other forms of liability. Many employees are bad enough at making references to race, gender, religion or other protected classes (or gross come-ons) without the booze.

    2. GrumpyBoss*

      That’s what I thought when I read the headline (before I got to the Mormon part).

      I had the unfortunate experience of being employed at a company where the Christmas party ended with a sexual assault (I didn’t know the girl, but that didn’t make it any less awful. She was very intoxicated and met a random stranger at the bar where the party was and things spiraled from there). The company enacted this exact same policy – I can only imagine as a result of being litigated into oblivion.

      The whole thing made me ask myself what I would do if I was a business owner. I do like to indulge from time to time, but I think I’d put out a very similar policy.

      1. Leah*

        Could you elaborate on why the company was litigated? It’s not their fault, it’s the fault of the assaulter. Just as the victim is not at fault because she was intoxicated, the company is not at fault for providing the drinks, no?

        1. My two cents...*

          it’s the company’s responsibility to insure that everyone gets home safely…making sure no one gets over-served, especially when there’s any sort of open bar when it’s harder to track who’s drinking what while the party is happening.

          1. Ted Mosby*

            Legally, it isn’t. The party would have to be on your own property or on a property you control. Renting a bar does not make you responsible under social host law.

            1. Green*

              There are more laws than “social host law” that are potentially applicable in this situation, particularly if it is a work event.

    3. Anon Accountant*

      Exactly. I’d venture to say it’s more about the potential liability of someone leaving the party after drinking and something happening and then the company being sued. Many organizations in my area have banned alcohol at company parties due to this risk. They’re trying to minimize the risk of a lawsuit stemming from someone who drank too much at the party.

      1. Ted Mosby*

        I think, right or wrong, people get more uppity about being told (not) to do something for religious reasons.

        1. Green*

          They never expressed that it was for religious reasons. OP is the spouse who happens to know that the company is owned by someone with a particular religious belief and assumed, perhaps incorrectly, that that is the reason.

          For all you know, their insurer has asked them not to have booze, their lawyer advised against it, they think booze leads to inappropriate social interactions, or maybe they are aware of a recovering alcoholic on the staff and want to be inclusive and supportive.

          Separately, if you are being hosted somewhere by a business with a set menu, it is rude to order things you like better, even if it’s on your own dime, unless invited to do so.

  3. Diet Coke Addict*

    Dry events can suck, yes. (I once attended a dry wedding that was….not like any wedding I’d ever been to, that’s for sure.) But geez, it’s a couple of hours. How on earth would the employers not be able to do it? It’s not illegal, it’s not unethical, it’s not even poor etiquette. They don’t want alcohol at their party. The options are to not go and drink your face off at a different restaurant, or play nicely for an hour or two, eat their free meal, then go have a nightcap with coworkers or whoever and complain if it was really that onerous.

    1. sally-o*

      Exactly. And the OP doesn’t state what time of day the party is. If it were a lunchtime party, would you be so put off by the employer asking people not to drink? This is a *work* event, whether or not it’s also a holiday party. You’re probably better off in the long run not drinking anyway!

      1. Sascha*

        Right! Even when I go to conferences where the booze flows freely, I still don’t drink, unless it’s by myself, in my hotel room. I’m just too uncomfortable around work people – especially bosses or potential bosses, since I network – to have any alcohol.

    2. Anon.*

      Yeah, it’s kind of a bummer, but suck it up. If the work event is tolerable, that’s far better than a lot of them.

  4. Ann O'Nemity*

    Eh, I don’t mind the idea of a company stipulating that the holiday party will be dry, as long as (1) non-exempt employees are paid for attending, and/or (2) the event is purely optional.

    It would be worse if the company required employees to attend (implicitly or explicitly), refused to pay them, and then also dictated how they spent their time at the party (ie not drinking).

    1. GrumpyBoss*

      Sadly, I worked for that company where attendance at the party was mandatory (at least at my career level). And, oh, by the way, you need to pay for your cost, and subsidize your team’s cost.

      That was one party where I really wish I had alcohol to help soothe the burn.

    2. Katie the Fed*

      I don’t understand how the presence of alcohol or not would change those stipulations? To some extent they’re always dictating how you spend time at the party.

      1. Ann O'Nemity*

        If the event is mandatory but unpaid, I think prohibiting alcohol would make a crappy situation seem even worse. Sort of like, “The company won’t pay us to attend a mandatory holiday party, and now they’re telling us we can’t even drink. How much worse can this get?

        Versus, “The holiday party is dry, but at least it’s optional and if we go, we’ll be getting paid to be there.”

        From a morale perspective, I think a mandatory, unpaid, and dry holiday party could potentially hurt more than it helps.

        1. AMT*

          Yep. A mandatory, unpaid, off-hours party just screams “dysfunctional workplace,” and restricting what you can eat or drink just adds insult to injury.

          1. My two cents...*

            i don’t understand why it’s the company’s responsibility to provide intoxicants? can’t people appreciate just a free meal? talk about looking a gift horse in the mouth.

            also, it’s extremely common that when large parties (15-20+) make a reservation at a restaurant, the restaurant will have them create a limited ‘catering’ menu so that the kitchen can have enough of stuff on hand while limiting the possibility of food waste.

            everyone whining about a ‘dry party’ being terrible just sounds remarkably ungrateful. alcohol’s expensive and it’s a risky thing.

            1. blu*

              I think you are assuming they want this party to begin with. I think that’s a flawed premise. This isn’t a “free meal”. It’s enforced socialization and it’s work. That’s not to say you can’t have a good time, but it’s not the same as, say, being given a gift card for a meal that you can use where, when, and with whom you want to.

            2. Pennalynn Lott*

              We’re not talking about the company providing intoxicants. We’re talking about adults being prohibited from buying alcohol — with their own money — in a public restaurant where alcohol is already being served. BIG difference.

            3. Artemesia*

              This type of party is drudgery for most people, I would bet. I sure don’t consider it a treat to go to a restaurant to have a ‘free meal’ with people I work with all the time. A Mrs. Grundy announcement that NO, you will not be ordering a drink from the bar even if you pay for it — does not make the prospect more pleasant.

              These are work grinds not delights for all.

            4. Connie-Lynne*

              I hit the level in my career a long time ago where “free food” failed to have much, if any, appeal, if I didn’t have any say in what the food was or who I would be enjoying it with (ie, “working lunches” or “mandatory after-hours party, no partners allowed, not paid”).

              My employer pays me enough to buy and consume all the food I want or need, in the company of people I like.

              Even if there’s booze included, I’m not interested in that kind of gift horse regardless of the condition of its teeth.

        2. Stephen*

          If I were going to a mandatory event, (unpaid or not… although how can an event be both mandatory and unpaid? Does not compute.) I would be grateful if it were dry. I don’t necessarily want to hang out with a bunch of my co-workers while they get drunk, forget their normal social boundaries and talk too loud.

          1. Pennalynn Lott*

            Every single company party I have ever been to in my 30 years of working has been both unpaid and mandatory. There were repercussions if you didn’t attend, but they never paid anybody to be there because, *fun*!

            1. Stephen*

              How obnoxious! Paying you is how employers acquire the right to tell you what to do with your time. Any hours they haven’t bought are yours to do with as you please.

    3. Anonathon*

      Agreed, the non-drinking thing would more be an added frustration if there were other, more egregious, issues around the party. (Say, “everyone is required to come, must wear a funny hat, and perform company-mandated zumba, and, oh yes … you will all be sober.”)

      1. AMT*

        I desk-laughed at “company-mandated Zumba.” I will forward your idea to the Department of Mandatory Sober Fun at my workplace.

  5. Michele*

    +1 Totally agree. Yes, we can all agree that it should have been worded differently but not being able to go 2 or 3 hours without a cocktail seems to be a much bigger issue!

  6. LBK*

    Totally agree with Alison. If this had been delivered in a less Draconian way, you probably wouldn’t even think twice about it. Just treat it as if they had rented out an event hall that didn’t serve alcohol period – not a big deal.

    I’m a pretty regular drinker and I wouldn’t be miffed by this. It’s a work event, not my birthday party.

    1. JB*

      Exactly. Would it be more fun with alcohol? Possibly, depending on the people you work with. And I’ve been to some work parties that made you feel like you needed a drink. But it’s a few hours. Would you be outraged at showing up to a friend’s dinner party to find out that alcohol wouldn’t be served? Disappointed maybe, but this level of indignation and outrage makes the OP sound unreasonable. Or like an alcoholic.

      I agree with Alison, though, that maybe it was the way it was phrased that triggered the OP’s reaction rather than the idea of being without alcohol for a few hours.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Yeah, I am not getting the big upset, either. Companies are always telling people what to do, to me this is just more of that.

    2. Allison*

      ” Just treat it as if they had rented out an event hall that didn’t serve alcohol period”

      I am wondering why the company didn’t just do this. It would seem much easier to take that approach, because then you have more control over what’s available to your employees rather than telling them they can’t have something available at the venue. Although maybe they were trying to save money, or mix things up.

      1. Katie the Fed*

        good point. Around here there are lots of Afghan banquet halls and other Muslim-owned places that would work well. And then I could get my kabob on and be a happy girl.

      2. LBK*

        Eh, depending on the size of the city or the company there may be limited options that are feasible for everyone to get to and within the price range the company is willing to pay. I don’t think it’s unreasonable for them to hold it at a restaurant even if they plan to restrict what people order.

      3. AnonyMouse*

        I actually wonder if part of the reason for the OP’s frustration is that the party is taking place somewhere you might just expect to be able to drink as a standard accompaniment to your meal (Mexican restaurant, margaritas perhaps), so it comes off a bit patronising to tell people what they can and can’t buy with their own money. I can’t imagine anyone being too annoyed if the company party just happened to be somewhere that didn’t serve alcohol, and if they were I’d think it was really unreasonable.

        But I personally think it’s totally reasonable to skip alcohol at a work event for a whole bunch of reasons and I wouldn’t be annoyed, even if I’d personally prefer to have a drink. If it’s a company event, they can choose to set some rules, and this isn’t an outrageous one.

  7. Helka*

    I feel like the owners’ Mormonism is actually kind of a red herring in this case. I don’t see how it matters why they don’t want people drinking; what matters is that they are hosting a party, and as the hosts, they can set the terms. And since it is a company event, banning intoxicants doesn’t seem that unreasonable — the same way as it’s not unreasonable to ban it in the office.

    1. Sunflower*

      I agree. There are many companies that also don’t allow alcohol at their functions for a variety of reasons, many not having to do anything with religion or personal beliefs.

    2. NoPantsFridays*

      Yeah, actually, I think it is a red herring. If a recovering alcoholic friend were having a party to celebrate one year of sobriety (or something like that), I would totally understand if he didn’t serve alcohol!

    3. Jamie S*

      If the company is based in Utah, I could see it contributing to the OP’s concern. I’ve worked and lived in Utah my entire life. Mormonism is so ingrained into culture and politics in some parts of Utah that it’s hard to recognize when a rule or restriction is totally normal.

      In one workplace, I felt awkward drinking coffee in the office. It wasn’t officially against the rules, but it did go against the grain of the workplace culture. When you’re immersed in a place like that for so long, you need some outside perspective to recognize what’s normal.

      1. Turanga Leela*

        +1, and also… Some Mormons (certainly not all, but many, especially in Utah/Idaho) can be awfully sanctimonious in how they talk about alcohol, and I can see why that would bother the OP more than a secular alcohol ban. I’ve worked for offices that chose to have exclusively dry events, and they were clear about the reasons, which were mostly related to drunk driving in a rural area. I was fine with that. I would be less fine if the management acted as though the rest of us were sinful or immature for wanting to have a beer with dinner.

        My point is, it’s possible that the owners are really making it about the “why” of the ban, and I can see why that would be irritating. We don’t know that that’s the case, and either way, it’s not worth fighting over—but I can understand why the OP might be irritated by the religious reasons for the alcohol ban rather than the ban itself.

        1. NoPantsFridays*

          Yes, this sort of irritates me too, even as a religious non-drinker. The moralizing about alcohol really bothers me. I know atheists who don’t drink for ethical/moral reasons, and they don’t get into the “why” for this reason.

        2. bridget*

          Right, but I think the lack of outside perspective works both ways. I have always lived and worked in Utah, and I think for some companies, it may not be so much because the owners are super morally judgmental or sanctimonious about anyone drinking alcohol under any circumstance, exactly. They may just be so used to their own culture in which there is hardly ever alcohol that it makes them VERY uncomfortable to host a party where people are drinking (I know plenty of people would feel uncomfortable just attending a party where drinking was occurring). I know lots of adults who have lived their lives in Mormon-dominated areas without having had much exposure to people responsibly drinking around them, and whose information is based on movies and/or news reports about frat parties getting out of control. Heck, I was in my mid-20s before I attended a party or a wedding that WASN’T dry.

  8. Allison*

    The owners don’t drink, so I wonder if they have some preconceived notions about what happens when people drink at parties, and are prohibiting alcohol consumption based on that. I didn’t drink before I was 21, and while I didn’t judge people negatively for drinking, I did feel uneasy every time I found myself at a “drinking party.” They may have some safety or liability concerns, not just moral ones.

    Their reasons aside, it’s just one party, you can survive without drinking. I understand feeling like, on principle, people should be allowed to make their own choices, but ultimately it shouldn’t be a big deal. Not a hill I’d want to die on, that’s for sure.

    1. JB*

      Maybe, but unless they live in an environment where almost every single person is an observant conservative Mormon, I bet that as adults, they have been around people drinking at parties. But I agree they may have liability concerns.

      1. Helka*


        I belong to a religion that prohibits alcohol, but you better believe I’m familiar with what people do when they get drunk in large numbers. No preconceived notions needed!

        1. Allison*

          It’s entirely possible they’ve considered it, but that’d be one hell of a morale/retention issue. That said, I wouldn’t be surprised if the company kitchen didn’t supply free coffee, or they did but didn’t invest much into the coffee maker and supplies.

          1. Kimberlee, Esq.*

            This, but also a lot of Mormons do drink caffeine. In my hometown, that was mostly not the case, but my hometown was 50% Mormon. Most Mormon’s I’ve met outside of heavily-Mormon areas drink caffeine, wear tank tops, and many even drink alcohol.

            1. CG*

              Just to clarify (although you may know already): even though you’ve known Mormons who drink alcohol, it’s a big no according to church doctrine. Please don’t list that as a definite or a generalization of Mormons at large even if it was true of some of the ones you’ve known.

              As for coffee in the workplace, I would guess that if the majority of their employees are not Mormon and they are a decent sized company, they probably provide coffee. You can get a decent Keurig or coffee pot for not too much, and you can keep coffee in stock for relatively low costs.

              1. Zillah*

                Birth control is also a big no according to the Catholic church, but many, many Catholics use it. What’s doctrine often isn’t the same thing as what the member live by every day.

                1. Zillah*

                  Which is not to say that drinking alcohol is one of those things, of course – I’m just saying that “a big no according to doctrine” doesn’t mean that people don’t do it.

                2. Artemesia*

                  Something like 98% of American Catholic women use birth control at one time or another. Or so I have been told. I know the regular usage rate is about the same for Catholics and non -Catholics.

            2. davey1983*

              While several Mormons (outside of the Utah/Idaho) area drink caffeine, I would hesitate to generalize that most do such a thing.

              As for the tank tops and alcohol– while some do (even ones in Utah/Idaho), the ones that go to church on a semi-regular basis do not (Mormons typically wear garments under their clothing, so tank tops would be out of the question).

              My experience as a Mormon who has lived in Utah and outside of Utah– it was much easier to find ‘Jack Mormons’ in Utah then outside of Utah (ask a Mormon living outside of Utah/Idaho about ‘Utah Mormons’ sometime).

            3. Melissa*

              Apparently the original LDS ban was on hot drinks, not caffeine. Some church leaders interpreted hot beverages as “coffee and tea,” and then people assumed it was because of the caffeine in them.

        2. bridget*

          I don’t know of any Mormon-owned companies that prohibit coffee, even during the workday (although some of them just don’t have a coffeemaker in the kitchen, so you’d have to bring your own). Mormons with little exposure to alcohol are a little scared/uneasy about it, like Allison mentioned here, because they don’t have the experience to know there is a big difference between a drink at dinner and drunk driving, erratic behavior, etc. That’s not how it is with coffee – I don’t worry that an extra-awake employee will get into a car accident, or get rowdy, or whatever, even if I have never tasted coffee myself.

            1. Emily, admin extraordinaire*

              I would guess that they had a bad experience at a previous holiday party and decided not to chance it this year.

      2. Allison*

        That’s entirely possible, although it’s also possible they insulate themselves socially and don’t mingle among common drinking folk. Or maybe the opposite is true, and they’ve been to enough parties where people got drunk and crap hit the fan, so they try to keep that from happening at their own parties.

    2. Tara*


      I went to my first party involving alcohol a few months ago. I was terrified walking in, and was rather shocked to discover that it was basically the same as a sober party, except people were a bit sillier and friendlier.

  9. Nerd Girl*

    It’s a few hours! This is a problem? Really?
    I’m not a drinker so I would have no problem with this kind of party, would probably enjoy it even! I went to one company function that involved alcohol and it was one of the worst work things ever! People were so drunk it was embarrassing. As someone who doesn’t drink, I was one of the few who remembered everything on Monday morning which made for some awkward interactions with my peers and managers alike.

    1. Katie the Fed*

      Heh. I kind of love those parties :). I usually just have one glass of wine and watch the shenanigans unfold.

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        Heh, me too. I usually stick to one or two cocktails and try not to point and laugh. Of course, that really started after the party where I ate nothing and drank four cocktails and got realllly happy. Not drunk, mind you. But happy. And I wanted to share that happiness with the salesguy I had a crush on. (I didn’t do anything horrible, I just turned up the flirting to 11.) He thought it was hilarious– I was very lucky. And so embarrassed I didn’t drink for another 6 months.

        1. Nerd Girl*

          The party I attended was held at a restaurant that was holding a radio sponsored event in another room. There was a lot of back and forth between the two rooms as the radio event was offering prizes and lots of energy. One female co-worker who had waaaay to much to drink ended up on the stage portion of the radio room while the guy from the radio station got the crowd chanting “skin to win”. She ended up taking her top off and flashing the whole crowd which was filled with a LOT of drunk co-workers. Another co-worker covered her up but not before a room of people saw her topless, myself included. Imagine my moment of awkwardness when I realized she had no memory of taking her shirt off and I remembered it all! It took weeks before I was able to look at her in the face again.

            1. Not So NewReader*


              This is the kind of company party that I like to avoid. I would be so embarrassed to see this person on Monday.

    2. Elsajeni*

      For me: not drinking for a few hours — not a problem. Attending a party where alcohol isn’t served — not a problem. Attending a party that’s held in a restaurant where alcohol is available and being served at other tables, but being told that I’m not allowed to order any, even though I am of legal age, perfectly happy to pay for my own drinks, and not under any kind of ‘in loco parentis’ arrangement with the person telling me I’m not allowed — yeah, I would be a little irritated. The host can set the terms of their hospitality, that’s fair enough, but does a drink that I didn’t ask them to pay for, and that I’m drinking not under their roof but in a public place where I’d be welcome even if I weren’t their guest, really qualify as part of “their hospitality”?

      1. Mafe*

        If you are there as their guest? Yes. They invited you, they’re paying for the meal, they get to set the conditions. Don’t like it? Don’t go.

        1. Elsajeni*

          My general opinion is, if you want to set the conditions for a party you’re hosting such that some particular thing isn’t available — not just “isn’t directly provided by you,” but isn’t available, period — you should arrange to make it actually unavailable. You shouldn’t assign the work of avoiding it to your guests. Find a restaurant that doesn’t serve the thing you object to, or choose a set menu or catering package that doesn’t include it, or something.

          (For what it’s worth, I do think you can reasonably request that your guests avoid the thing you object to — Alison’s suggested wording would be a good way of doing that. I recognize that we don’t know the actual wording used by the hosts in this case; I’m assuming, because the OP describes it as “forbid[ding]” and because it sounds like multiple people at the company are mad about it, that it sounded more like an instruction than a request. That’s the main thing that I object to.)

          1. Mafe*

            How is it assigning work to ask (or tell) people not to order alcohol? Is it really such an effort to NOT buy a drink? Will you find somehow just yourself ordering alcohol unless you really, really try hard not to?

            It’s their party. They’re paying. They get to set the terms under which people attend. You can always choose not to go if you somehow feel it’s too much effort to avoid accidentally ordering booze.

          2. Melissa*

            It’s not like the bartenders are coming around pushing tasty free drinks into people’s faces. There’s no “work” involved with avoiding it. We’re all adults here; we can see other people ordering drinks at other tables without ordering one ourselves.

  10. NoPantsFridays*

    Wow, this is like the opposite of my situation where my employer is very pro-alcohol, it flows freely at company events (on corporate credit cards), and I don’t drink for religious and other personal reasons. While I don’t mind other people drinking, I’m continuously “encouraged” to drink and I find it really annoying. I also do not discuss my faith and personal background at work, so I can’t explain why I don’t drink. I think my coworkers think I’m silently judging them, but I’m really not. I usually don’t go to work events for this reason. (Our Christmas party will be held during work hours and on-site so at least it won’t be a concern there.) In the OP’s situation, I probably wouldn’t go.

    1. Ted Mosby*

      ugh. When people get made at you for “silently judging” they are almost always the ones judging. I’m totally comfortable with my own alcohol consumption, so I don’t question anyone elses’s (as long as they don’t seem unsafe).

      1. NoPantsFridays*

        They don’t get mad. All I said is, I thin kthey think I’m judging them. They don’t tell me I’m judging them. :)

    2. Juli G.*

      Ugh. I hate when I have to remind people that their coworkers may not want to drink for a myriad of reasons so let’s not pile on peer pressure like we’re 15.

      1. Allison*

        I remember going to a corporate function at a job I’d just started, and I didn’t have a drink in my hand, but one of my co-workers basically informed me that it was the thing to do and I needed to have a drink to fit in, so I did eventually order something. I still took it easy since I needed to drive home, and didn’t want to get sick, but it was odd to have someone say that to me.

        1. olives*

          This is where the easy solution is to order a Shirley Temple. Though I’ve encountered bartenders who are mystified by what sort of alcohol they ought to put in it, and are a bit thrown when the answer is “none”.

          1. another IT manager*

            I’ll usually get a seltzer with lime just to have something in my hands. I’ve only gotten flack for it twice in six years, at a company that’s really fond of its liquor. Both parties were already tipsy when they asked me.

              1. Melissa*

                I was about to say this – or sometimes I’ve gotten plain water with a wedge of lemon. Most people assume it’s a gin and tonic. And I actually do drink, but sometimes I just don’t feel like it and the questions are ridiculous.

          2. Lyssa*

            I’m pregnant but not showing yet, and was at an event recently where I asked the bartender for a Sprite – she gently ribbed me about needing ID, and when I mentioned that I was pg, said that she could add a splash of cranberry and some lime, too, which I accepted. It was actually really good! And it looked like a fancy drink – I didn’t miss having a real drink at all.

            (Warning if you’re trying to keep it a secret, though – I did get asked what I was drinking, as it looked interesting.)

    3. Felicia*

      I have had this same experience at work functions – they ask what i’m drinking, i say sprite (that’s what i was drinking) . Then they ask why i’m not drinking alcohol with some “come on, loosen up” or “you can have some, no big deal” . I shouldn’t even be asked that question. And my answer is really “because I don’t like the taste” and if they do keep pushing and I answer honestly, apparently “I don’t like the taste” doesn’t work for them. And there are a miniscule number of alcoholic beverages i don’t mind the taste of, and in those cases, my answer is “I don’t want to” or “I prefer this pop i’m drinking” which a lot of people also don’t believe.

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        Oh, I hate people. I hate this crap. I drink. I like good wine and I LOVE an excellent cocktail. But sometimes I’m just not feeling it, or I have a headache, or the booze is crappy, or I have to be up early, or… I always, always keep that in mind when I’m out, no matter who I’m with. I’m sorry you work with such asshats.

        My favorite, though, was when everyone at work wanted to go out for some reason. It was during Passover, where my diet is very restricted and I don’t consume alcohol that isn’t Kosher for Passover. I said, “I’ll come, but I can’t drink so I may head home early.” Someone said, “WHAT? Come on. YOU?” I said, “It’s Passover.” “You can have ONE DRINK.” I tried to explain why, but she went on and on and on… Oy. You have my sympathies.

      2. NoPantsFridays*

        That sounds really annoying! For some people, there is no reason good enough not to drink — whether you’re a recovering alcoholic, on medication, have religious/ethical reasons, or just plain don’t want to (as you said). There is no reason good enough, so you might as well not provide reasons. This is a very personal issue on which you don’t need others’ agreement. Not giving reasons is something I’m practicing more and more (it applies to several other areas of life too — hassling about relationship/engagement/marriage/house/kids, etc. where you really only need buy-off from people directly involved (such as your SO/spouse)).

        Thankfully, my current coworkers haven’t been nearly as bad as others I’ve met and more or less settle for “No thanks, I don’t drink.” I don’t drink pop either and “No thanks, gives me a headache” seems to suffice. I knew someone in college who would say, “No thanks, gives me gas” haha.

        It’s still preferable to pressure not to drink, which I’ve also experienced, where people don’t believe that I don’t drink and find the need to “convince” me to right my wrongs and stop drinking.

      3. Elizabeth West*

        I find that “I’m driving” shuts them right up. And it’s totally accurate because I’m always alone, so no designated driver, and I won’t drink and drive.

        1. Felicia*

          I wish i could do that! I live in a city where especially if you’re going downtown, the vast majority of people take the subway and ive never had a work party that wasn’t subway accessible.

    4. Kathryn*

      I have found this part of being pregnant absolutely blissful. In general, I’m a very light drinker – I’ll have a drink about every 6-8 weeks in the normal course of my life. So I often choose to go out with people and drink craft root beer, Shirley Temples, water, etc, purely by personal preference. Knowing that I drink sometimes means I get to explain over and over again that I’m not drinking tonight, by choice.

      I got pregnant and that whole stressful exchange just ENDS. Waiters, coworkers, friends “I’m not drinking, I’m pregnant tonight.” And we move on to talk about movies or books or the crazy thing that happened in that one meeting. Its like a superpower.

      1. NK*

        One of my friends couldn’t even escape the drinking pressure while she was pregnant! We were wine tasting at a bachelorette and people were egging her on to have a few sips all day long. While I’m personally OK with a few sips of wine on occasion while pregnant, some people are not, and it got old to hear people bugging her repeatedly. Just respect it and move on, people!

        1. Melissa*

          I think if the virgin drink sucked then the alcoholic version probably sucked too. The whole concept behind daiquiris is that you can’t really taste the alcohol in them that much.

          1. Was Layla*

            Alright , will try a daiquiri next time. Not sure what I tried before, possibly piña colada. It was all white and tasted like sweet milk. Used to a slight bitter taste to balance it out that comes from alcohol !

    5. Artemesia*

      I drink occasionally but often I don’t and I have never had people push me to drink in social situations. We have friends who drink and don’t and no one ever comments when we go out together or whatever. I just make sure when I am stocking up for making Moscow Mules that I lay in some non-alcoholic ginger beer so I can include my non drinking close friend gracefully.

      I would be really annoyed to be nattered at about drinking if I chose not to.

  11. Katie the Fed*

    Oh wow. This really isn’t something to get “outraged” about. It’s one party, with free food, for one evening. Just go, eat, make small talk, and leave.

    Yes, it would be nice if the offered the option, but it’s their money and their party. We don’t really do holiday parties here – we do potlucks in the office which I kind of hate for such big events (and I don’t trust everyone’s food). So, at least you get a party.

    This isn’t THAT big of a deal. It could be worse, like a dry wedding (egads!), but as a matter of etiquette, you’re the guest. You should up, consume what’s offered, be gracious, and leave.

    1. JB*

      I have some coworkers whose food I am reluctant to eat, based on their willingness to eat food of questionable continued validity and their concept of what qualifies as washing dishes. There are days when I’m thankful for food allergies, and pot luck days are among them.

    2. OhNo*

      Out of curiosity, since I’ve seen this mentioned a couple of times already: what’s the big deal with a dry wedding?

      It sounds like a good thing to me, because then you wouldn’t risk having your special day ruined by drunken family members.

      1. Diet Coke Addict*

        For the wedding I attended, it was very normal for their social circle, but extremely unusual for my family (Polish Catholic), because it was just so very far out of the norm. There’s nothing wrong with it, per se, but it was just genuinely very different from what we were used to–champagne toasts, wine bottle on the tables, open bar, etc. It was very different for us to be toasting with orange juice.

        And usually weddings are drinking events because they’re parties as well, and God knows many of us need a drink to contend with our second cousins berating us for not popping out kids yet and Aunt Thelma audibly commenting on the other guests’ sartorial choices and so on. It’s a social thing.

      2. ThursdaysGeek*

        Yeah, I was wondering the same. Most of the weddings I’ve attended in my life have been dry, and the wedding reception at our house a few months ago was considered a great success. Since the groom was a recovering alcoholic, we had sparkling cider for the toasts. Good friends, good food, good times — that can easily be had without alcohol too.

      3. Fabulously Anonymous*

        “…because then you wouldn’t risk having your special day ruined by drunken family members.”

        For me, it’s the assumption that I have no self-control and given the opportunity will drink myself to excess and ruin your special day.

        1. Observer*

          Well, that’s on you. Unless you have a record of public misbehavior while drunk, you are the one with the mistaken assumption. There are LOTS of reasons why people might have a dry wedding, and they have nothing to do with their assumptions about you. Why would you think otherwise?

          1. Ted Mosby*

            I think that was a direct reply to OhNo’s comment.

            Although I think most families have “that person,” and that doesn’t mean you per say.

        2. OhNo*

          I guess I don’t see why guests would take it personally, though? I’m pretty sure every family group has at least one relative that everyone knows will probably drink to much and cause a scene. I think it’s kind of weird that people would expect the couple to go to every guest and say, “We trust YOU not to behave poorly, but we decided not to have alcohol so we don’t have to deal with Drunk Uncle Lester.”

          If you have a history of good decisions and good behavior, wouldn’t you just assume that the restriction wasn’t meant as a sly comment on you, but as a general rule to prevent poor behavior by someone the couple doesn’t trust as much?

          1. Jen RO*

            This is odd to me. All the weddings I’ve been to have involved alcohol and zero drunk family members…

            1. Judy*

              That’s probably not an option. The option is probably to ask cousin Wakeen and cousin Bob to babysit Drunk Uncle Lester.

              We didn’t have alcohol at our wedding reception, mainly because our wedding was the weekend before Christmas, and we didn’t want to travel far from the church for the reception in case of weather, the nearby venues were already reserved, and there was a perfectly good (beautifully decorated for the season) church hall we could use. Since neither of us drink much, it was fine. But we also were married at 5:30 pm, did our pictures beforehand, and everyone was pretty much gone by 8 pm. I think my cousins went barhopping after.

      4. De Minimis*

        It’s funny to me how much norms can differ within regions, where I live I’d guess that most weddings are dry.

        1. ThursdaysGeek*

          Or at least among sub-groups within a region. I’m sure that there are people in my area that serve alcohol at weddings, but the most I’ve seen is a bottle of wine at each table for toasts. I don’t recall ever attending a wedding with an open bar or hard liquor. We still manage to have plenty of fun.

      5. Katie the Fed*

        They’re just dreadfully boring otherwise. Most people are shelling out $100-200 for a gift, traveling a bit, getting dressed up, and are expected to spend 6+ hours in your company. The least you can do is get them a drink or two.

        It’s not AS big a deal if you tell people ahead of time, but you should probably stick to a short reception then and not expect people to dance and party with you all night.

        1. bridget*

          Now I feel bad for all the non-Mormon attendees at my dry wedding (held when my spouse and I were still practicing Mormons, when I was – sigh – 19 years old. I am a stereotype.). It was a super cheap wedding, though!

          1. Katie the Fed*

            I’m sorry – don’t feel bad! If it’s like, a daytime cake and punch in the church basement thing – that makes sense. But if you’re doing a reception until midnight, that’s when it can get a little….ugh…not not offer some wine or beer. But this is my social circle too.

        2. OhNo*

          Maybe I’m just not getting it, but I don’t see how alcohol would make all that traveling, getting dressed up, and sitting through a boring service any more fun. Especially because you usually wouldn’t get to drink until the end of the evening anyway. Am I missing something?

          I feel like if we’re looking at alcohol as a reward for doing all those unpleasant things you mentioned, there must be other ways that are just as good. Really good food, or fantastic dessert, or nice thank-you gifts for everyone that came. I mean, obviously some people would prefer alcoholic drinks to other options, but I guess I don’t understand why alcohol is the default answer here. Maybe it’s just a cultural thing.

          1. Katie the Fed*

            Generally if you want people up and dancing and having a good time, a bit of booze helps things along :)

            1. Not So NewReader*

              Even with booze, I am seeing less and less people getting up to dance at weddings. And the music sometimes is so loud you can’t even hear the person next to you. In these instances, I am glad when it is time to leave.

        3. Emily, admin extraordinaire*

          Mormon wedding receptions are obviously dry, but they also operate really differently (at least in Utah and the other Mormon-heavy areas. Places where Mormons are a definite minority may have different traditions). Around here they’re more like an open house where you greet the bride & groom and their parents then eat and then leave. Refreshments are a slice of cake or some ice cream or cheesecake or maybe a chocolate fountain, and gifts, unless they’re close family and maybe not even then, tend to be between $20 and $50. Most wedding receptions I’ve been to, I’m in and out in half an hour, unless the line to see the bride and groom is super long.

          1. De Minimis*

            I think this is also common for weddings in many of the Bible Belt states. I know it is for where I grew up.

          2. bridget*

            Yes, that was the basic idea, and you’re right – 97% of the attendees were used to those weddings, and had had them themselves, so we weren’t disappointing many people.

            My husband’s best friend isn’t Mormon, though, and I know he thought our wedding was a little on the lame side. Since he was in the wedding party, he had to be around all day. He’s getting married this year, and we will bring an extra good gift to make up for it (and also drink plenty of the alcohol).

      6. Turanga Leela*

        I will be a pro-drinking spokeswoman! Preface this by saying that I’ve never been to a dry wedding, and if I were invited to one, I would not complain about it. But here’s why I’d prefer a wedding where booze is served:
        1) Drinks with alcohol in them are delicious. I rarely drink to excess, but when I go out, I like to have a cocktail. Weddings are no exception. People like drinking wine, beer, and hard liquor. Soft drinks do not taste the same.
        2) In smallish doses, alcohol makes people feel happier and less inhibited, and that can make the party better. Personally, I am self-conscious about my dancing, and it’s hard for me to get on the dance floor without a drink. Other people feel the same way about talking to strangers, seeing relatives (as Diet Coke Addict says), and so on. None of this means that people are getting drunk or sloppy, just that one or two drinks can help people have a good time.
        3) As Fabulously Anonymous says, dry events sometimes come with an unpleasant feeling that the hosts think that they’re better than drinkers or that their guests won’t be able to control themselves. Of course, sometimes the guests really CAN’T control themselves, and if that’s the case… yes. Have a dry wedding.

        1. Liz*

          That’s interesting that people think the “dryness” is because the wedding hosts don’t trust their guests to drink. I’d automatically assume that it was because serving alcohol would be cost-prohibitive. I guess some people would argue that if you can’t afford alcohol then you can’t afford a wedding, but I don’t agree, so I suppose that’s why the dry wedding idea doesn’t bother me.

          1. Zillah*

            I should have just read down. Cost definitely occurred to me as being the most likely reason for having a dry wedding.

            1. Mpls*

              Or having the bride and groom both under the age of 21, and thus not legal to drink, as are many of their friends. That, in addition to the cost, was likely the reason for the one dry wedding I’ve been to.

          2. Turanga Leela*

            Just depends on the context. If the wedding reception is cake and punch in a church basement or the couple’s backyard, then I’d assume that cost was the issue. If the wedding is large and expensive, and either the couple comes from a non-drinking religious tradition or they’ve made comments about how they’re so happy to have a dry wedding so that people behave themselves, then I’d make a different assumption. (As I said, I’ve never been to a dry wedding, but I’ve heard stories from friends about weddings they’ve been to.)

          3. Kat M*

            I had a slightly wet wedding-mainly due to costs. I think it’s rude to imply that you shouldn’t have a wedding if you can’t afford a bar or a full bar. Some people have religious and ethical reasons, some people, it’s financial. I think, honestly, the drinkers are doing a fair share of judging on their own when they make assumptions. People should understand that they’re not obligated to attend a wedding. Also, no one’s obligated to give a gift of $100 or more. If people feel they have to or that they have to stay the whole time, that’s on them. If the couple really is that selfish, then there are bigger problems than the wedding.

            1. tt*

              I’m with you. People limit alcohol for a variety of reasons. We had a small, low-key wedding in my SIL’s backyard. As my husband put it, a bbq with a marriage service at the beginning. We provided a limited selection of beer, hard cider, etc. We generally didn’t want a lot of alcohol there, didn’t want to spend a fortune on alcohol, and we didn’t buy anything that we didn’t want to be stuck with when the wedding was over. There was no dancing and we didn’t expect anyone to stick around all night (in fact, didn’t want them to!) or give expensive gifts. We “could” have spent more money on alcohol, but that isn’t the wedding we wanted.

              1. JMegan*

                “a bbq with a marriage service at the beginning.”

                That’s awesome, what a great expression! And exactly what I want for my (hypothetical) wedding too. Brilliant.

                1. tt*

                  I thought it was great, but not so sure my mother in law did. She was giving us instructions on mingling with guests – “eat a little, go down one row. Eat a little more, go down another row. ” He just looked at her and said no, we’re going to eat what we want and then go mingle when we’re ready, it’s just a bbq with a marriage service lol.

              2. Ted Mosby*

                That sounds like a fun wedding (bbq?). I think it’s all about context. There, some beer would be perfect. Blasting tunes at a country club all night? I’d expect some alcohol, barring religious/AA/other reasons.

          4. L Veen*

            Sometimes it depends on the venue – my BIL and SIL had a dry wedding because they’re teetotalers, but their wedding venue insisted on setting up a cash bar because alcohol sales make up such a significant part of the profits for such large events.

        2. AnonyMouse*

          I’ll second your first point. I don’t like sweet beverages (lots of common juices, soda, etc) all that much, so in terms of drinks you might have with dinner or another wedding-appropriate meal, there are a lot of alcoholic beverages I might enjoy but if I wasn’t drinking I’d probably just have water. That’s fine with me personally, but for others with similar tastes, it can be nice to have a glass of wine or something.

          That said, I would never be upset or offended by someone hosting a dry wedding or work event. There are lots of reasons why someone would choose not to have alcohol, and even though I might prefer it I can certainly do without for a night.

      7. AvonLady Barksdale*

        I like wine with my meal, as do many of my friends and most of my relatives. A dry wedding isn’t a “big deal”, per se, but in my circles, it would be odd. Most people I know don’t drink excessively; they might get a little lubricated, but no one’s going to be barfing on the dance floor.

      8. Samantha*

        This was one of the perks of having an early in the day wedding. My husband and I got married at 11 a.m. and had a lunch reception. We had an open bar and people did drink, but not as much as a I know a few of them would have if it was later in the evening!

        1. Diet Coke Addict*

          That was what we did, too. Sunday-morning 11am wedding with a brunch reception. We had the mimosas and champagne flowing, and an open bar, but most people stuck to a couple of drinks and we were done by 3pm. It was great.

          1. Katie the Fed*

            That’s exactly what I did – it went really well! I actually feel like I way overspent on alcohol since it was per-person based because people didn’t really drink that much. But it all worked out really well. For a daytime wedding, wine/beer is totally fine.

            Ultimately it doesn’t matter to me too much, as long as I know going into it what to expect.

            1. Diet Coke Addict*

              We actually got money BACK from our venue afterwards–we prepaid based on X number of drinks, which we didn’t hit–so we got a nice little refund cheque for what hadn’t been spent. I called it “the wedding gift from our venue.”

      9. Zillah*

        Also, if there’s no alcohol at all, you don’t have to navigate the issue of whether to have an open bar. If you don’t but have alcohol available, you’re seen as cheap. If you do, it generally costs a lot of money.

        1. CA Admin*

          This was the conversation I had with my little sister when she was planning her wedding. She wanted to do a cash bar because she and her fiance don’t drink and didn’t want to pay for an open bar. I convinced her that a dry wedding was better because cash bars are seen as cheap.

          Anyone who knows the couple knows that they don’t drink, so it won’t come as a shock that there’s no bar at their reception. A cash bar makes it seem like you want alcohol there, but just don’t want to pay for it.

      10. Dry Toast*

        I had a semi-dry wedding. Our toast was with sparkling grape juice. We didn’t provide alcohol, not even a cash bar, but the reception was held at a hotel which has a restaurant & bar separate from the banquet room. This didn’t prevent some people from getting plastered, though it did force guests to physically leave the reception in order to obtain alcoholic beverages. If anyone had a problem with it, they didn’t tell me to my face, and I’m not related to or friends with them anymore. (Those who knew me well were aware there would be no alcohol provided.)

      11. Miss Chanandler Bong*

        I’ve been to a couple of (terrible) dry weddings, and a couple of (terrible) open bars. My favorite weddings have been the ones that were wine/beer only (which cuts down on costs a lot).

        Personally, I am a remarkably terrible dancer, but I LOVE dancing. I need at least two beers until I can start breaking it down, but I usually get the dance floor started and then hold it down all evening (I also pretty much don’t drink once I start dancing, so the two beers basically hold me over all night).

        The dry weddings I’ve been to were very religious. All were boring and uncomfortable. This could be partially due to the church they were performed at; the pastor went way over the top in the ceremony, to the point where I was cringing in my seat, which carried over into the reception.

        Also, if you’re not going to have any alcohol and only very small amounts of food, maybe don’t take 1.5 hours of pictures between the ceremony and reception? People will be much happier when you emerge if they have access to beer or something to eat in the interim instead of standing around making very awkward small talk.

      12. Ted Mosby*

        OhNo, you’ve clearly never met my family, the crustiest, soberest batch of Boston Irish Catholics ever to grace a wedding. No alcohol needed to ruin absolutely everything. I wish it were such an easy fix ;)

      13. Pennalynn Lott*

        The dry weddings I’ve been to were Southern Baptist, and they were darn near funereal. No booze, no music, no dancing. Just a lot of standing around making *very quiet* small talk while cake was passed around. Nothing fun or celebratory about them at all.

        One of the weddings was for a friend of mine who married into a Southern Baptist family, and she ended up crying because the wedding ceremony and reception were so dour and depressing. (We threw her a huge party when she came back from her honeymoon).

      14. Artemesia*

        I have only been at one wedding where drunks were a problem — and it was a nephew’s wedding for the heavy drinking friend of my brother was specifically asked by him not to make a toast or otherwise impose his drinking on the group. Naturally both he and his very drunk spouse, got up and gave long winded embarrassing toasts (including repeatedly mispronouncing the bride’s name until the whole crowd was yelling the correct pronunciation back at him) and his wife fell off her chair when returning to the table after her incoherent ramblings. A dozen years and a couple of kids later, my nephew still tells the story when horror stories of family events past are trotted out.

        The last dry wedding I was at was lovely but tedious — home movies substituted for drinking and dancing (dancing was not allowed either.)

      15. Melissa*

        I think it’s just traditional in a lot of people’s social circles for weddings not to be dry. Plus, weddings usually involve a lot of people who don’t know each other partying and dancing together, and to a lot of people (including myself), that kind of thing is a lot more fun when you’re at least a little tipsy.

        I’ve been to lots of weddings, zero of them dry, and none have ever been ruined by a drunken family member. I think that happens a lot less often than one would think.

    3. Adonday Veeah*

      This whole conversation makes me want to renew my commitment that, if I were ever to marry again, I’d take a long lunch hour at the courthouse.


      1. Turanga Leela*

        I went to a really fun wedding like that! However, there was booze at the lunch, so I don’t know if you’re really avoiding the problem. :)

  12. some1*

    Well, no, technically they can’t force people of legal drinking age not to purchase an alcoholic beverage with their own money, but it’s not really worth pissing off your wife’s employer.

  13. Sunflower*

    I’m kind of shocked that people are shocked over this. Banning alcohol at a company function is not unheard of. As for people being offended- IMO that’s a really childish reaction and reads more cry baby that they’re upset the booze isn’t included for free as well. Employees throwing a stink about it to the company would be extremely naive and look terrible.

    I doubt the company is going to be policing people and breathalyzing at the door. If you want to have a cocktail or two before you come, feel free to. Just don’t show up to the dinner wasted- which is a good rule to follow even if alcohol is involved.

    The term ‘it’s a free country’ goes both ways. They have the right to ban alcohol and you have the right to not go. My suggestion is either you go to the party and enjoy the free food or don’t go at all. Do what makes you happy!

    1. De Minimis*

      I think if the owner’s religious beliefs weren’t known and the company just had a dry event, it wouldn’t be perceived as a big deal, or at least not as big of a deal.

      1. MK*

        Yes, I think the outrage is stems from people seeing this as an attempt on the employer’s part to enforce their religious beliefs in a work event.

    2. Chinook*

      “I doubt the company is going to be policing people and breathalyzing at the door.”

      And if they were, that would be a completely different thing. there is a reason that legal BAC is not 0% – you could have just had a liqueur filled chocolate, one of my grandmother’s trifles or fruitcakes, cough medicine or come from a Catholic mass. All of these things can make you have the smell of alcohol on your breath.

      But, since they are only asking for you to refrain from ordering alcohol, this is perfectly understandable. I believe that around here you a have a legal liability if your guests drink at your hosted event and then drive, even if you aren’t the one serving them, as long as alcohol is available unless you actively have a way for them to get home (pre-paid taxi chits are the most common way).

  14. soitgoes*

    Do people really feel the need to drink alcohol with their dinner, as a matter of course? I can drink with the best of them, but the notion that dinner can’t be had without trips to the bar is rubbing me the wrong way. Hit up another bar on the way home if it’s that important to you.

    1. Katie the Fed*

      Well, it’s not like a normal family dinner. Many people (myself included) find a drink or two helps soothe the nerves of that much social interaction.

      1. My two cents...*

        it can help, but that’s also self-medicating anxiety and can become a slippery slope.

        most of the time, employers have a dry party because of cost and liability.

        1. Katie the Fed*

          Oh for goodness sakes. It’s not a “slippery slope” by any stretch. If I enjoy a drink or two in large social situations, that’s my business.

          1. Ted Mosby*

            Thank you. Nor is it a liability to serve alcohol at a bar. Please stop citing fake laws, or look up laws before you cite them!

        2. CA Admin*

          There’s a reason slippery slope is considered a logical fallacy and not a logical argument–because people tend to be good enough at judging grey areas that they don’t just end up at the most extreme end.

          I think we can all agree that having a drink or two at a work function to soothe nerves and make the evening more enjoyable is a far cry from depending on alcohol for any social interaction.

          1. Katie the Fed*

            “There’s a reason slippery slope is considered a logical fallacy and not a logical argument–”

            I’d like to buy you a drink for this!

    2. MK*

      I almost never drink with my dinner at home, but I almost always do when dinning out. It’s sort-of part of the restaurant experience.

      1. Katie the Fed*

        I’m the exact opposite – I can’t justify a $10 glass of wine when I’m out when I could get 4 glasses from good $15-20 bottle.

    3. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Not a need, but I like a glass of wine with my dinner on a semi-regular basis, in home and out. That said, I can certainly go one night without it. I just don’t think it’s that strange to want a drink with one’s meal, especially when enjoying that meal at a nice restaurant.

      1. Turanga Leela*

        You’ve been summarizing this really well, in this comment and others. No, it’s not a big deal to give up drinking for a night, but it’s also not a big deal to want a drink. Having a drink at a celebratory dinner is very normal behavior.

        1. soitgoes*

          This is what I was getting at – it’s cool to want a glass of wine with dinner, but frankly I find the OP’s annoyance to be a bit juvenile.

    4. Alicia*

      I don’t feel the need but I regularly do have a glass of wine with dinner. It’s perfectly easy to go without but I don’t think that having a drink with a meal is all that odd.

    1. Katie the Fed*

      That’s not really fair. We don’t know that the OP needs alcohol to get through the event. In many social circles it’s virtually unheard of to celebrate anything without a lot of booze (my family is Irish – trust me on this).

      1. Cat*

        And also it sounds like they’re objecting to the dictate itself as much as the effects of it, which I get.

        1. Kelly L.*

          Nor is it even the OP who’s upset, as far as I can tell. OP doesn’t even work there and just said it “doesn’t sit right”–it’s co-workers of the wife who are offended. I got the idea OP is more interested in it in a theoretical sense.

      1. Fabulously Anonymous*

        I read it as paternalistic, but also as the OP wondering if this is the employer forcing religious beliefs during a work event.

      2. Observer*

        Mostly yes. But I found it odd that he expressed worry that the boss might smell the alcohol on someone’s breath and make an issue of that.

        I do think that, as usual, “diagnosing” alcoholism from afar, especially such a short letter is a jump. On the other hand, the outrage and exaggerated worry is something that really makes you wonder what’s really up. Maybe he really just doesn’t like Mormons, or he really doesn’t like the boss…

        1. JMegan*

          That’s what I think, that there’s something more going on than just the alcohol ban. It sounds to me like this might be just the latest in a long string of workplace annoyances, the (cocktail) straw that broke the camel’s back.

  15. The Other Dawn*

    What’s the big deal? It’s a few hours without alcohol. It could have been worded better but it’s not an outrage. If people can’t go without booze for a few hours, there’s a bigger problem.

      1. The Other Dawn*

        Yes it could have been worded differently so as not to sound so paternalistic, but it’s the employer’s perogative if they want to ban alcohol. Just as the employee can decide not to attend.

        1. Ted Mosby*

          Well, you asked what the big deal is, and that’s it. It’s their prerogative to do it, but that doesn’t mean no one can be annoyed.

  16. Interviewer*

    I once went with my boyfriend to his Mormon’s boss’s company Christmas party, at his boss’s house. They had a gigantic living room with a grand piano, and we all sat packed onto several sofas, while his wife played violin, he played piano. Sometimes she put down the violin and sang. Think opera, not group Christmas carols. I fully realize not every Mormom family is like this.

    My advice: send your spouse to her company party, and stay home with your six-pack. The end.

    1. Sigrid*

      That sounds like the most amazing Christmas party ever (asuming they were competent musicians). I would have loved it.

    2. Emily, admin extraordinaire*

      Music is a big enough part of Mormon culture that it’s pretty unusual (at least for those born and raised in the LDS Church, especially in Utah) not to have at least one family member who can play at least one instrument, or is a pretty good singer, or both. Everyone in my family can play the piano, my dad plays the organ and is teaching two of my siblings how (my fingers aren’t long enough to even try :P), I played the violin in junior high, my dad played violin and viola in high school, both parents can play guitar, my sister plays the recorder, we all sing, and we even have a family handbell choir (yes, that is weird, even for us). So yeah, out of the norm, but not *that* far out of the norm.

  17. Sandrine (France)*

    5 years or so ago I was going to plan a dry wedding. My own sister said she wouldn’t come and it would suck and blah de blah. I was really, really, hurt at the time.

    But yeah. It’s a few hours. You won’t die if you can’t drink alcohol for those few hours.

    Now it would be something else entirely if they only served water, fizzy or not. I was once at a lovely wedding where there were “other than water” drinks for only the first part… the shortest one. For the next three hours there was only water and I almost fell asleep at the table… gimme some orange juice or soda and I can keep up all night :P .

    1. Nikki T*

      Yeah, I don’t get people who get mad at dry parties of any kind. Yeah, I guess alcohol is nice at weddings and other parties, but people can’t go a few hours without? Maybe it helps the party to be less ‘boring’ but to me, boring is boring, a drink wouldn’t really help. I don’t much care for socializing with my coworkers, even on our holiday ‘after hours’ I just want to eat, drink and go, not linger and linger for free booze.

      Just water is kind of weird, no iced tea, no lemonade, no juice, just water? That sounds… and I typically only drink water.

      1. Phyllis Barlow*

        I have a cousin who does not drink, and when her children got married, the only beverages served was infused water (strawberries, lime, oranges, ect.) cola, and coffee. It seemed a little odd not to have a champagne toast, but not horrible. Of course I knew there would be no alcohol, but never knew water could be so good!!

    2. tt*

      Please tell me your sister *did* actually come though? Cause I’d really hope your family would be more supportive of being there for a significant moment in your life, alcohol or no.

    3. LMN*

      What’s the big deal on no soda or juice? It’s only a few hours–you won’t die.

      See how easy this is? Anything can be “only a few hours.” It doesn’t mean that people want to deal with it.

  18. Mimmy*

    Agreeing with everyone else that it’s not unheard of to ban alcohol at work functions (though all functions I’ve been at did allow it). I like my wine, I’ll admit; while I’d certainly be a bit disappointed, I would still absolutely suck it up and go anyway if I thought I’d still have a good time.

    I do agree with Alison that the OP’s employer could’ve handled that better, assuming they really said “we forbid alcohol…”. “Forbid” sounds so….parental. How does that saying go….you get more with honey than vinegar.

  19. Barbara in Swampeast*

    I wonder if the restaurant knows about this?

    I don’t drink and would like this kind of dinner because I have NEVER met anyone whom I like better after they have had a few (or more) drinks. DH and I had to leave a Christmas party for his work because a guy, who normally is a really nice guy, got drunk and suddenly developed a violent dislike for DH.

    1. Diet Coke Addict*

      It’s not uncommon for restaurants to set up a certain menu for large group events, where things are or are not restricted. Usually for a big rental they lay everything out in the contract beforehand–there will be X amount of guests, there will be Y number of entrees available to choose from, there will be Z number of beverages, etc. Especially if it’s in an area with a large Mormon contingent, I’m sure they’d be familiar with it.

    2. OhNo*

      I doubt it really matters whether the restaurant knows about this – presumably they wouldn’t be policing the purchases of their customers on the employer’s behalf anyway.

      I wonder if part of the reason for “banning” alcohol consumption – rather than just requesting that people not drink – is because it is a public venue. Especially if this is a smaller town or close-knit community, I could see the employer being wary of having employees behave poorly in public if they drank too much.

      1. Colette*

        Sometimes the bar tab is part of the pricing for the event – so if the restaurant is expecting people to buy drinks and they don’t, it can affect the restaurant’s bottom line.

        1. OhNo*

          Fair point. If there were concerns over the bottom line, would the restaurant make up for the lack of alcohol ordering in some other way? Larger automatic percentage added for the group, maybe?

        2. Judy*

          Pretty much every time I’ve set up an event (that uses a dedicated room) at a restaurant, there’s a “cover charge” – this room for 3 hours on a Saturday night means you need to spend $xxx. You also decide whether to order off the menu, offer a limited menu, offer “family style” of 2, 3, or 4 dishes to pass, or a buffet. If there are more than 15 or so people, the restaurant prefers the latter options, I’ve heard it’s easier to manage the kitchen. Usually you specify if alcohol is to be part of the menu, if so, are you just buying x bottles of wine, only wine and beer, or is it an open bar?

  20. Episkey*

    Heavens to Betsy! It’s one night! It’s like eating dinner at a friend’s house who is vegetarian and then throwing a hissy fit when there’s not meat. I sincerely doubt ONE NIGHT with no alcohol is going to kill you.

    1. Mike C.*

      Why are so many people keep making posts like this when the issue is the paternalistic tone rather than the lack of alcohol?

      1. Helka*

        Because it isn’t at all clear from the OP that “the issue is the paternalistic tone rather than the lack of alcohol.”

        1. Diet Coke Addict*

          Indeed, the OP’s question of “can they do that?” makes it sound more like a “well, why NOT?” than “I didn’t like the way they asked it.”

        2. Mike C.*

          It’s clear to a whole lot of people, and the OP certainly doesn’t say that they can’t go a single night without drinking, so again, why does that people keep getting brought up?

        3. Liz*

          Exactly. The OP doesn’t say anything about being bothered by the tone of the request, just the request itself. The concern about the hosts smelling the breath of the employees(!) doesn’t have anything to do with the tone of the request.

      2. Episkey*

        Because the OP said, “This doesn’t right with me and I’m wondering if her employer can indeed do this.”

        Not, “I have no issues with drinking a Sprite at dinner, but this seems like the employers are being controlling and obnoxious.”

        Also, the OP isn’t even the employee and he’s upset by this! We have no real idea how (a) this was presented to his wife, and (b) how his wife relayed the information to him. I know that we generally take OP’s at their word here, but I don’t think the pertinent info is clear in this case.

        1. Mike C.*

          It wouldn’t sit right with me if my wife’s employer was mandating what I could and could not otherwise legally consume on my own time before or after such an event and that’s paternalistic by all reasonable definitions.

          The fact that it isn’t even my employer makes it worse, not better.

      3. Observer*

        For two reasons. One is that it is actually far from clear that the paternalistic tone is the whole story. In fact he clearly states that he’s worried about a level of policing that’s pretty unlikely. Secondly, there is the “is it legal” question. That’s generally coming from someone who wants to fight something, and is trying to find leverage. Does anyone REALLY think that being “paternalistic” is illegal?!

        1. Mike C.*

          There’s more than enough people who find the message overly paternalistic.

          And who cares that someone asked “is it legal”? People get so worked up over this question when we live in a country where laws are unclear, there is little if any education about them, that education only applies to specific geographic locations, and way too many employers make policies that go against the law.

          The idea that an employer can hold a dinner in a restaurant and then mandating what a spouse can or cannot otherwise legally consume on the premises before or after that dinner is a bit much, don’t you think? Broaching the question is not a lawsuit – it’s a question, nothing more.

          1. Observer*

            Actually, no it’s not. They are throwing the party, and there are good reasons not to allow alcohol. The fact that spouses are apparently invited does not change that.

            The question “is it legal” speaks to a mind set. You don’t ask “is it legal” about something that’s “a bit much”. You ask that about things that are major issues. In other words, this letter is explicitly about more than a boss being (possibly) rude and paternalistic.

            1. Kelly L.*

              I think we had this discussion on another thread a month or two ago. “Is this legal” does not always equal intent to sue. Many, many times it’s just to get ammunition in standing up for yourself. In this case, if there were a hypothetical law against the employer telling employees what they could and couldn’t buy with their own money, then if an employee got reprimanded for buying a drink, they could cite the law. Not to sue, but to bolster their argument they’re having with the boss right then.

              That’s not saying any of it would be a wise career move, but it doesn’t necessarily mean “lawsuit.”

              1. Observer*

                I understand that. But, you don’t bother to find that ammunition for something that is merely annoying, unless you are into finding things to fight about. When your boss is limiting your access to restrooms, or insisting that you do things that are unsafe, or insists that you spend ridiculous amounts of money on something non- job related or something equally serious, then you ask because even if you will never sue you need SOMETHING to clobber the boss with. But this? Does anyone really need to go to war over this?

      4. Not So NewReader*

        If the issue is because of a paternalistic attitude, then they could handle it like some people handle family situations. Set a time limit, when you hit that mark (1.5 hours, 2 hours, etc) then leave. I know plenty of people that do this when visiting family. You don’t stay the whole time, you make your excuses and then go.

        Matter of fact, those that are interested could agree to meet some where else later on and have a night cap together. Just move the party over to another place.

  21. Ella*

    I think this employer is lame and being overly paternalistic. I’d be offended. If you don’t want to pay for alcohol at the party, fine. It will probably keep most people from drinking. But to forbid grown adults from buying their own drinks with their own money in a public place? That’s ridiculous. They don’t need to control their employees to that level.

    1. Diet Coke Addict*

      Really, offended? It’s a long stretch to offense, I think–it’s their party, they are the hosts, their rules. Employees can choose not to attend.

      1. Ella*

        Yes, I would be offended by an employer forbidding me from purchasing a drink with my own money due to their religious beliefs.

        1. Helka*

          To be fair, the connection between the owners’ Mormonism and the requirement is an inference by the OP; there’s no indication that the owners are saying “Because we are Mormon, you may not have alcohol at this party.” It could just as well be “We don’t want to deal with the possibility of our employees getting plastered in a public place.”

          1. some1*

            Everyone who assumes this is only about the possible liability is making as much of an assumption as the LW assuming this is about religion.

            1. JB*

              That’s true, but many workplaces *do* have dry work events for precisely this reason, so it’s a reasonably assumption. And that everyone is making the assumption is exactly the point–the OP is assuming one reason, and other people are saying it’s just as reasonable to assume it’s a liability issue instead, so maybe the OP shouldn’t get righteously indignant about it.

        2. Sunflower*

          No one is forbidding them from doing anything. They aren’t saying they can’t drink- they just can’t drink at the party. They can go to the bar and drink out there outside the party if they please

          1. Kelly L.*

            Nope, the employer means anywhere on the premises. So they’d have to leave the business entirely.

            1. Sunflower*

              I read the letter as they are NOT renting the entire restaurant out. If that’s the case and you really wanted to make a point, you can go sit in the bar and drink and not be an attendee of the party. The point is, the company isn’t telling them they can’t drink- they’re saying they can’t drink at this event and I don’t see how that is trying to ‘control them’ especially considering the event is PURELY optional. Just like everything else in life(except death and taxes), if you don’t like it don’t do it.

              1. Mike C.*

                There’s no way I could see someone making such a strict mandate and being ok with heading over to the bar instead.

                1. My two cents...*

                  liiiiiabilityyyyyy. don’t like the terms, then stay home. it’s a free meal.

                  unless you’re out in the middle of no where, there’ll be another bar around the corner. once you split off from the group, there’s no mistaking that you’re on your own and responsible for your own actions.

                2. Sunflower*

                  I disagree. A very good reason for these strict mandates is for liability reasons and I doubt the employer would care. People drink at the bar- they aren’t part of my party, aren’t my responsibly if they get in the car and hurt someone. I’ve worked at bars that are all about people having a good time, losening up- but when it comes to liability, stiff as a nail.

      2. TL -*

        Well, it’d be similar to hosting a birthday dinner at a restaurant aand telling your friends they can’t order drinks (rather than you won’t pay for drinks), and less like going to a party at a dry venue/someone’s house.

    2. Observer*

      Well, I guess you have never been sued because of alcohol related behavior, never known anyone who has been sued, nor ever read anything about the liabilities around the issue. Liability is a BIG deal, and this is a way to try to reduce it.

      It’s also a way to deal with a number or other potential issues, such a good employees who may not have a high level of tolerance, and therefore wind up doing stupid things that have negative effects, even when they don’t lead to law suits.

  22. Celeste*

    I seldom drink and usually avoid it at work events…but I get the OP’s annoyance. It isn’t just that they wish to have a dry event. It’s that they went pre-emptive with “even if you pay for it yourselves”. It’s smug, and suggests a holier-than-thou attitude towards the staff, instead of hospitality as guests. As AAM says, there are other ways to say it. In fact, there are many ways. But they picked this one, and we all know it’s not from a sense of liability. I feel certain that it wouldn’t go over well to speak with them and ask them to soften their words going forward, for example.

    1. Twilke*

      That’s assuming the wording in the letter is a accurate reflection of what they said and not the OPs interpretation/rephrasing.

      1. Judy*

        There is the possibility that the menu was published, and some people said, “No alcohol? Well, I’ll just go to the bar and buy it myself.” And then the owners spread the word. The OP is the spouse, unless they’re on the mailing list they most likely got this second hand.

      2. AnonyMouse*

        Yeah, it’s really not uncommon for people to rephrase/summarise when they write in here. It’s not dishonest, it’s just easier, shorter, etc. Admittedly I have no idea how this situation unfolded, but I think it’s likely the owners just said that this will be an alcohol-free event, clarified that also means no separate tabs, and some people got offended. I highly doubt they actually said “we forbid you to drink at this occasion.” Of course, if that actually is what they said, then yes, I think that phrasing is unreasonable.

    2. Observer*

      Actually, we do NOT “know” that it’s not from a sense of liability. That is YOUR assumption, and apparently that of the OP. But that doesn’t make it true.

      I frankly think that any employer who allows alcohol at a work sponsored event is an idiot.

    3. Sunflower*

      Considering the OP doesn’t even work at the company, we really can’t be sure how exactly the wording was put or how it was conveyed. It’s possible as Judy noted that people noticed alcohol wasn’t included so they asked if it was going to be served at all or if they could purchase themselves and were told ‘no this is going to be a dry event’. There is nothing smug or wrong about that.

      I also don’t think you understand the liabilities that do come with providing alcohol or else you wouldn’t be saying banning booze has anything to do with liability. Dram Shop laws- everyone is held responsible- the restaurant, manager, waitress, bartender and company sponsoring the event. Not only can someone injured by a drunk driver sue them but the drunk driver himself can sue the bar for over serving them. Not saying it’s an easy case to win but implying that liability is some sort of scape goat is excuse doesn’t make sense

  23. Mike C.*

    Yeah, I find the tone of the requirement to be rather paternalistic and obnoxious. There are tasteful ways to deal with this issue, and that’s not what happened here.

  24. Carrington Barr*

    Ah, a dry Xmas party … what a concept.

    I’m in a part of the country where drinking is practically a requirement of any gathering. Needless to say, every Xmas party at Old Job was a company-sponsered drunkfest, with people slurring their words by 7 PM. It was *extremely* uncomfortable for people who didn’t drink (like my partner and I), who would attend “to be social”, then disappear back into our hotel room after the meal so as not to have to deal with the plastered co-workers.

    Now I work for the government, with no party and no push to be “social”. I LOVE IT. :)

    1. Erica*

      I don’t think it’s “needless to say.” I’ve worked at several places where alcohol was served at company parties, and no one drank to excess. It depends on the company culture.

  25. Mena*

    This seems like giving a gift with conditions: ‘we’ll pay for dinner IF you don’t drink.’
    I’m never the one to over-indulge at any work-related function but this seems annoying. My preference would be to skip the dinner all together.

  26. Chris*

    I don’t think the OP sounds “outraged” or that he can’t go an evening without drinking – more put off by the employer putting their morals or standards on other people. It’s absolutely fine for the host to set the terms of the party, but I hope they won’t be put out when people leave or split off to other places for cocktails.

      1. Kelly L.*

        I don’t see it as the same thing, unless they make a rule that people must drink the alcohol. That would be the parallel.

        1. Zillah*

          But there are plenty of people who are really uncomfortable around people drinking – I think that Joey’s point is a good one.

        2. NoPantsFridays*

          Agreed — the opposite situation would be mandatory drinking. The presence of alcohol does not obligate one to drink it, whereas the absence of alcohol requires all not to drink it.

      2. Mike C.*

        Maybe if the hosts are forcing people to drink, but outside of frat rushes I don’t think that’s something we see in the workplace.

  27. Joey*

    Does the job suck that bad that attending a social function without a drink is an outrage?Im sensing that a dry party is just the beginning.

  28. Alex*

    A couple of things…

    It might be paternalistic and obnoxious the way it is presented but lets remember that this is second hand information. We have no idea how this was pitch to the wife.

    Secondly, I use to be a banquet and restaurant manager. I’ve made most of my career hosting corporate functions. Dry events are a GOOD thing! Believe me! I’ve seen such awful behavior fuel by alcohol. Inhibition goes out the window and things that shouldn’t be said were said and career were destroyed. (ask me about the guy loosing his dentures…ugh!)

    Also, will all jurisdiction in the US and in Canada, the employer would be just as much liable as the venue should you hit the road inebriated and have a accident. The venue would loose it’s alcohol permit and the business would be held liable to the potential victim or even the employee for favoring this kind of environment. It is really hard for a venue to keep track how the alcohol consumption of patrons when it’s a large party.
    I have seen a lot of parties where the employer provided taxi chits for their employees to avoid all that.

    1. Joey*

      thats unfair no? What’s wrong with a party with responsible alcohol consumption?

      I’ve seen plenty of two drink ticket parties or other ways alcohol is limited by the hosts.

        1. Joey*

          Isn’t that obvious? Many many people find a stiff boring quasi mandated company social function a little more palatable with a drink or two.

      1. Mike C.*

        Yeah, it’s really not hard to deal with bad behavior when you serve in a responsible manner. I was the sober representative for various large and small alcoholic parties in college, and responsible serving goes a loooooooog way in ensuring that everyone is safe and has a great time.

      1. Alex*


        First time at a new banquet hall and I was the Maître D’H and the bartender for a Steel Mill company holiday party. They drank A LOT! It was insane!
        And this guy would come up to the bar and ask me about “coco bananas” or something weird while there was a line of about 20 people waiting for beer.
        At one point in the evening, he comes up and keeps mumbling and banging on the bar. I couldn’t understand him at all so I cut him off. He kept still banging like a sad bar fly at one end of the bar.
        A few minutes later, one of the server comes up and ask me for a stack of napkins. He bent right outside my bar rail and picked up the guy’s dentures from the ground. EEK! Which he plucked right back into his mouth and turned around happily.

    2. HR Manager*

      That was my first thought – at every holiday party (or company function) where alcohol there is always the one or the story resulting from some man or woman who drank too much. THIS — this is why you can’t have nice things at company parties!

      On a different note – I am not a drinker, but I sympathize with those who want a nice dinner with some wine/beer. I am at a company where it’s not unusual to see a beer cart roll around after hours after a successful project. While most do the right thing and don’t overdo it, you always have at least one who wants to treat the workplace like a frat party. We recently had an employee who chastised us for keeping the alcohol flowing and for not providing something different. She lost someone dear to her to a drunk driver, and she reminded us all that after some serious drinking (company-sponsored or employee-paid), many of us are getting into cars and driving home and how dangerous that mix is. A sobering and important reminder to us all. Even if companies do not have legal liabilities, we are creating an environment where many will feel they can safely have that extra drink in the spirit of fun. If an employee were to get into a terrible accident on the way home, it doesn’t matter if the company paid for it or not, would get sued for it or not…it’s not something I want to contemplate for the employee or the random person on the street.

  29. Employment Lawyer*

    You may be incorrectly assuming it’s due to religious issues. It is more probably the result of liability scares.

    People who drink at parties have a horrifically high rate of acting badly. And when that happens, the company can often get sued.

    One very good way to avoid that problem is to try to make sure that your employees aren’t falling-down drunk, so that they don’t turn into a bunch of groping, harassing, drunk-driving, get-the-company-bad-press, idiots. Not to mention it’s cheaper.

    If you’re old enough to drink, then you’re old enough to know that not everyone can make that work out well. If you’re really upset , or if you feel like you Cannot Have A Good Time Without Alcohol, then you might want to reconsider blaming the company. The problem is probably you.

    1. Joey*

      You should have said excessively drink. Just because you have a drink or two doesn’t mean you’re likely to do those things.

    2. some1*

      “People who drink at parties have a horrifically high rate of acting badly.”

      I think there’s a lot of confirmation bias here. I’ve been to plenty of work parties with alcohol where nothing happened.

      1. Alex*

        Sure! *sarcasm*

        “I had drinks at the Christmas party and I told the best formulated though to my boss”

        1. CA Admin*

          I’m sorry, but that’s unnecessary. It doesn’t add anything to the conversation, just snarks at some1’s comment. Agree or disagree, but please be polite about it.

  30. C Average*

    I think what’s really irksome about stuff like this is that it’s all part of a general tendency for a big shot at the company to say, “Hey, the department is going to hold the kind of party that’s fun for ME, and I’m going to treat it like a big, generous thing we’re doing for the rest of the employees when I’ve given no consideration at all to what’s fun for THEM. And it’s going to eat up an evening of their time during a busy time of year, and the power differential between us is going to make it awkward for them to not show up and pretend it’s awesome.”

    If you’re going to hold a company party and treat it like a perk, make it an actual perk. Think about who’s coming and what they’d enjoy doing. And if “what they’d enjoy doing” is cashing a holiday bonus check and having their own party, make THAT happen instead.

    1. Martin VAN Nostrand*

      This is hilarious and so smart. So many times I would rather have paid for my own meal than spend precious personal time with coworkers and bosses.

    2. HeyNonnyNonny*

      Yes, this! It’s outside of work hours, the restaurant’s already been chosen, and there are no-alcohol dictates on top of it. It’s not terrible, but it’s not exactly a ‘gift’ for employees either.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Yeah, the outside of work hours is the worst part for me.

        Exjob had a perk where they threw a party for employees/family at a pizza joint that has a big game room. Think party rooms and cheap-ass pizza with incredibly obnoxiously loud games where you win tickets and trade them for prizes, and go-karts. (Not the one with the giant rat.)

        I never went for two reasons: 1) I don’t have a family, and I would have just felt really out of place, and 2) I was warned by another employee that if I showed up as a guest, I would end up working it! Believe me, the pizza there isn’t good enough for either of those things to happen.

      2. ThursdaysGeek*

        I’m a non-drinker who likes Mexican food and my co-workers. It sounds like a gift to me. It’s at Christmas time, so I might be too busy to take it, but that doesn’t make it less of a gift.

        If it’s a gift you don’t like, then don’t take it.

        1. Elsajeni*

          Fair enough — but if it’s supposed to be a gift to a large group, I think the giver does have some obligation to think about how many of those people will want that gift. If you’re the only person in your office who would enjoy the teetotaling Mexican dinner, it might be a good gift for you, but it’s a lousy choice as a gift for the whole office.

  31. Cheeky*

    I work for a utility company. We are, by the nature of the work, very safety oriented, and there is NO drinking at company functions. It’s just the way things are. I don’t understand why this is such a big deal, and frankly, there’s something to be said for staying sober around your coworkers and bosses.

    1. Judy*

      I’ve worked for 3 F50 companies. Only one had events with alcohol. Only one allowed travelers to expense alcohol. At that one company, I’ve seen sides of some co-workers I really didn’t want to. Not only silliness, but meanness, drama and once even bruises on my arm from someone trying to get my attention in a manner that seemed to him like a good idea at the time.

      1. TL -*

        My workplace has beer available every Friday; people drink and I’ve never seen anything happen that I wouldn’t expect if there was no alcohol involved.

  32. Martin VAN Nostrand*

    Agree with what most people are saying. But I also wonder if they could have picked a different venue. Maybe it’s regional (or maybe it’s just me) but I think Mexican restaurants tend to be especially festive. I don’t remember the last time I had Mexican food without a margarita or a Corona. Seems like any other type of restaurant (Asian fusion?) or a banquet hall would be better. That said, I feel ridiculous as I’m typing this. Obviously, Mormons and teetotalers of all denominations are allowed to get down with Mexican food.

      1. soitgoes*

        What’s wrong with it? I actually kind of agree. If it’s a Mexican restaurant that has a liquor license, the bosses are essentially taking their employees to a bar and asking them to stick to the food menu. They’re going to be surrounded by a lot of casually drunk people, moreso than if they went to a normal restaurant where people sip single glasses of wine.

        1. Joey*

          So now a Mexican restaurant isn’t a normal restaurant? It’s one where everybody’s going to be falling down drunk from all of the tequila and corona?

          1. soitgoes*

            You’re trying to accuse us of racism and that’s not what this is about. The environment of a Mexican restaurant encourages alcohol consumption. People have suggested Indian restaurants because they don’t serve alcohol; is that racist too? Is it ignorant or bigoted to acknowledge the boss’s religious restrictions against alcohol? Why can’t we also point out the cultural norms that tend to be on display in a Mexican restaurant?

            If we’re going to respect a religious ban on alcohol, we need to be able to talk about how other cultures treat alcohol as well.

              1. Kelly L.*


                You could make a bigger case that Applebee’s encourages alcohol consumption, with all those brightly colored drink menus. Mexican restaurants are just…restaurants that have alcohol, like any other. I’ve never felt like they were more boozy than anything else, and I’ve eaten at them tons of times without getting booze (and yes, sometimes with getting booze, but that’s a minority of times). Nor have I ever noticed a higher amount of drunk people at one. Is it just “more festive” to people because the decor is bright? That’s kind of silly.

                There might be drunker times of day–like if the party’s right at happy hour, or really late at night–but that would hold for all kinds of restaurants.

                1. soitgoes*

                  I would actually have made the same claim about Applebee’s, TGI Fridays, and any other restaurant that situates the dining tables around a very large central bar.

            1. Joey*

              I think it’s frankly kind of sad that you think the best thing about Mexican restaurants is getting wasted on tequila and margaritas.

              1. Laufey*

                Always or frequently having drinks at a Mexican restaurant does not imply that they that the best part of a Mexican restaurant is being wasted. It simply implies that they find the food goes better with margaritas or Mexican beer than with Coke.

                And so what if the best part of a Mexican restaurant are the drinks? The drinks are certainly the best menu items at places like the Flying Saucer, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

              2. soitgoes*

                Oh come on. You’re just being inflammatory now. I don’t go to Mexican restaurants to get wasted. Do you come to this site to pick fights? See my comments very early on about how the OP is being immature. Even though I think the OP should get over this, that doesn’t mean that I don’t also think that the employer made a dumb decision.

                And really, liking margaritas better than any particular type of food isn’t cause for judgment or implications about whether or not anyone has a drinking problem. I’m not sad. Liking margaritas isn’t sad. You sad?

              3. Pennalynn Lott*

                That was incredibly out of line, Joey. That’s not what soitgoes said at all and you know it.

              1. soitgoes*

                No they’re not; my statement about Mexican restaurants wasn’t meant to imply that they’re the only ones with liquor licenses. The OP’s boss is taking the employees to a Mexican restaurant though, which is why the comments focused on that. IMO any restaurant with a hefty drinks menu is an inappropriate choice if you’re going to ban drinking.

                1. Kat M*

                  I don’t notice that Mexican restaurants have a heftier drink menu. I think most restaurants that aren’t fast food places are going to have a well stocked bar. Sure, maybe people instantly associate Mexican restaurants with drinking, but that doesn’t make it so.

                  My experience-both working in a Mexican restaurant and as a customer-is that they are usually good places to bring groups because the food is both delicious and well priced, a lot of them (not all, but a good portion of the ones I’ve been to) are family friendly (not excessively luxurious or raucous), and the atmosphere is warm, fun, and pleasant. It might be the best and most affordable choice for this particular setting.

              2. My two cents...*

                jesucristo! that’s not at ALL what they were originally stating!

                mexican places tend to have very visible frozen drink churns over by the bar. just like how there’s places like ‘the yard house’ that would be inappropriate for a dry-mandated holiday party with their 100+ beers on tap.

                1. Kelly L.*

                  I…don’t think I’ve ever seen this. The Mexican places around here tend to have a regular old dining area and then a regular old kitchen that’s through some doors. They get both the food and the beer/cocktails from behind there and bring them out to you. They don’t tend to have a standalone bar. I’m sure they have the churns, but I can’t see them from where I sit. They’re in the back.

                  There was one place that had visible frozen churns for frozen (dry) lemonade, I guess…

                2. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  You’re talking about one very specific type of restaurant, and the problem is in painting all Mexican restaurants that way, when they’re not. It would be like saying that all Chinese restaurants were like Panda Express.

            2. De Minimis*

              I’ve been to Indian restaurants that served alcohol, or at least beer and wine.

              Any restaurant that serves alcohol is going to encourage alcohol consumption. I don’t see Mexican restaurants that serve alcohol to encourage it any more or less than any other type of restaurant. Actually I think the hardest sell I got on alcohol was at the Indian restaurant mentioned above.

            3. Ask a Manager* Post author

              But it’s not a defining characteristic of Mexican restaurants that they’re boozy. There are loads of Mexican restaurants where that’s not a thing at all.

              It sounds like some people have come to associate Mexican food with margaritas, but that’s really, really not a defining thing about Mexican food or Mexican restaurants in general.

    1. Martin VAN Nostrand*


      A lot of assumptions were made while I was gone.

      Different restaurants have different vibes (atmosphere/ambiance – can we agree on that?).
      In my experience, Mexican restaurants have a festive vibe (loud music, loud crowds, guacamole made tableside, and – yes – margaritas. I know of one popular Mexican restaurant in my area where the waiters come around with the mariachi band and pour free tequila shots from the bottle into patrons mouths).
      Whereas other restaurants (Japanese, Indian, French) tend to be quieter. Obviously, there are exceptions on both sides. I’m not saying I’m right or that it should even make a difference, it just struck me as an odd venue choice.

      And I’m not going to dignify the assumptions that I can’t make it through a meal without a margarita because, come on, dude. Thank you to everyone who can debate in a respectful manner.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I think you’re describing one very specific type of restaurant, but it’s not correct to paint all Mexican restaurants that way; there’s an enormous amount of variety.

        1. Martin VAN Nostrand*

          Good point. Maybe it’s a quiet family place that’s very different from the places I’ve been to.

          I just think people are getting defensive about restaurant types, as if by stereotyping restaurants I’m stereotyping the people of the country with which that restaurant is associated. I am not.

          1. Kelly L.*

            Or not even quiet necessarily. I’ve definitely been to restaurants that were a-hum with sound, music, chatter etc. but still family-oriented.

  33. L McD*

    Drinking at company events has always seemed like a potential minefield to me (and I like to drink, just not so much around people I want to maintain professional boundaries with). I don’t think this is an unreasonable request, even putting the religious issues aside. If they worded it rudely that’s another matter, but this really doesn’t seem worth getting upset about.

  34. Night Cheese*

    I actually prefer dry work parties. At last year’s office holiday party, some coworkers turned into some *interesting* characters after a few beers. Drink with people you actually enjoy later!

    1. De Minimis*

      That is sort of how I view it, although I think it’s more a sign of how I view work in general. Work isn’t fun, it’s work. I don’t dislike my coworkers or anything, but for me any time spent with people from work is considered work. If it were taking place outside regular work hours I’d probably dislike it even more since it would be like working overtime….

      I enjoy drinking…it’s fun. Why ruin that fun by mixing it with something related to work?

  35. Rebecca*

    Having experienced some rather drunk coworkers at past holiday parties, this would be refreshing. I’ve endured holiday parties in the past where people showed up already well on the way to being intoxicated, and even though wine and beer was served with the meal, they felt the need to bring hard liquor and drink to excess until they were falling down drunk. I wish alcohol had been banned until after the meal and other festivities were over.

  36. Observer*

    It’s letters like this one, I think, that makes the question “is this legal” seem so ridiculous to people. The assumption that his whole issue is the paternalistic tone makes it even more absurd. In what universe is it legally forbidden for an employer to be paternalistic? But beyond that, why on earth would someone be so outraged by this that they would be thinking in terms of what leverage they have to force the issue?

    Either this is a required event, in which case they NEED to ban alcohol (and pay non-exempt staff for their time.) Or this is not required, in which case banning alcohol is still a good idea, but YOU CAN SKIP THE EVENT. Why on earth would anyone even think about forcing the issue?

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Employers do come across as paternalistic for many reasons, not just the one reason here.
      I have to wonder what else is going on at that company. It almost feels like this is one in a series of things and this straw broke the camel’s back.

  37. Student*

    Suggestions for your employer:

    Next time, throw the party at a dry location if you want it to be dry. Either at a restaurant that doesn’t serve alcohol normally, or at a restaurant you’ve fully reserved for the evening, or hire a caterer and rent a space for it. Trying to keep it dry at a restaurant that serves alcohol is likely to be ineffective and confusing for guests, and frustrating for the restaurant. You shouldn’t expect restaurant employees to be effective or enthusiastic about enforcing your religious food restrictions if that isn’t typical for their job. Some middle eastern restaurants have no-alcohol policies for religious reasons, as a suggestion for future gatherings.

    Suggestion for you:
    If you don’t want to go to a dry party, don’t go. It’s a religiously-based cultural practice. It’s perfectly fine for you to decide you don’t want to do this, either because you don’t like the tradition itself, or because you don’t like the way they issued the invitation with restrictions.
    Please keep in mind that, while the invitation was not as gracious as it could’ve been, this alcohol restriction isn’t about you. This is about the owners throwing the kind of party that they can within their religious restrictions. They mean well toward you, even if the invitation struck a nerve with you. They are attempting to reward their employees and build some camaraderie. Try to view the invitation in the spirit in which it was given.

    1. Diet Coke Addict*

      But we don’t know that the reasoning is religious in nature. This is secondhand–it might not have anything to do with religion.

      Not that that makes a big difference either way, but the owners haven’t made it clear that their religion is their reasoning.

    2. Zillah*

      I think that you’re making this way more confusing and strange than it needs to be.

      If employees have been told, “We’d like this to be a dry event, so please don’t order drinks, even if you pay for them yourself,” that’s not confusing – it’s pretty clear. If it’s “ineffective,” it’s because employees explicitly ignore the request, which is rude. And I’m not sure how it’s “frustrating” for the restaurant. A comment of “Oh, no drink menus this time, thanks!” when you come in or employees just not ordering alcoholic drinks isn’t that hard. If the owners are expecting the restaurant to police employees who try to order drinks, yeah, you have a point, but I don’t see any indication of that.

      Honestly, it seems to me like you’re implying that people who prefer not to drink should be sequestered into their own restaurants, because normal restaurants will be frustrated by a group of people not ordering alcohol with dinner, and adults will be so hopelessly confused by a request that they not drink alcohol that they won’t be able to puzzle out what it means. That’s… just ridiculous to me.

      1. Amtelope*


        I also don’t see what’s confusing. The bosses don’t want their employees to drink at this party. They’ve told employees this. If the employees ignore that and order alcohol anyway, I’d have serious questions about their judgment and maturity.

      2. Laufey*

        I can see how it could be frustrating for the restaurant (if they don’t know about the owner’s alcohol restrictions). Food service is incredibly low margin. Most of a restaurant’s income will come from a few select items. In nearly every restaurant with a liquor license, the majority of their bottom line margin comes from alcohol sales. Individual tables not ordering alcohol – just the lower end of the bell curve. A substantial large party taking up lots of space and staying longer than the typical table – probably going to have an adverse effect on the bottom line that night.

        I could also see the servers getting irritated since their tips won’t be calculated off the usual food + booze total that they would typically get (on average). Good servers won’t let their irritation show, but there will probably not be volunteers to serve a large party which they know won’t have any alcohol sales, versus several smaller parties which might.

        1. Amtelope*

          Oh, come on, plenty of people (and plenty of large parties) don’t order alcohol in neighborhood restaurants. Sure, it’s great for wait staff when someone runs up a big bar tab, but as long as whoever’s paying tips appropriately, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with having a large party of people who aren’t drinking. They’re not having the event in a bar.

          1. Laufey*

            Yes, plenty of parties don’t order alcohol (including my friends and I a large part of the time, because we know we can make most of those drinks cheaper in at home than we can buy them for). I’m just trying to point out that, statistically speaking, a random group of people is likely to order more higher-margin alcohol products than this party is apparently going to order, and that if the restaurant owner/manager/server is not aware of the alcohol restriction at the start, they might end up being rather irritated by the end of the night.

            1. Zillah*

              But you’re talking like this will be a many-hours-long affair. If they were taking up a huge room for six hours on a Friday night, I might agree with you (though I still don’t think that’s reason to order alcohol), but this sounds like it’s just going to be a meal. (Not even necessarily a dinner!)

              1. Laufey*

                I was basing the time factor on my personal experience with office holiday parties (yes, I know, plural of anecdote is not data), which have generally lasted at three to four hours. That said, my office has never had a dry party and we all generally get along, so that could be throwing off my estimates of how long an office holiday party typically lasts.

                1. Zillah*

                  Yeah – I’d imagine that if you’re nursing drinks, you tend to stay longer than if you’re just eating. (That’s my experience, anyway, when I’m eating out in a smaller group.)

          2. Laufey*

            Or who knows? Maybe they told the restaurant they wouldn’t be buying any alcohol and the restaurant is just fine with just the food tab. We don’t know.

        2. Zillah*

          I’d imagine that it’s probably balanced out by the fact that a large party will automatically get gratuity added on, where you can’t know that the heavy drinkers won’t stiff you on the tip.

          I just think that the idea that the restaurant will be stewing and the server will be secretly hating the party because they’re not ordering alcohol is absurd, as is the idea that you have to order drinks to eat out – which is the logical conclusion of the argument. Should parents avoid taking their kids out to eat, too, since they can’t order alcohol?

          1. Laufey*

            I’m not certain how the logical conclusion of my comment is that you are obligated (morally or otherwise) to order alcohol when dining out at a restaurant. I was merely pointing out that any restaurant with a liquor license, and any employee earning tips at said restaurant, will assume that X% of its patrons will order high-margin items, and that a guarantee that a large party was not going to order any beverages stronger than a root beer could irritate people who thought they agreed to an office holiday party (which many associate with copious alcohol consumption, based on stories from AAM).

            Obviously, you disagree that people would be irritated by this. That’s fine. I was just offering ideas on how Student thought the frustration could occur.

            1. Kelly L.*

              Though if they’re in a major Mormon area, restaurants may be used to it. We were talking about Applebee’s above–many years ago, I went to an Applebee’s in I Forget Where, Utah, and the sign said Applebee’s Neighborhood Grill (without the usual “Bar &”). Inside, the layout was the same as any other Applebee’s, but the giant bar in the middle was…almost completely empty. They were using it as a waiter station, because they sold no hard liquor at all. They did have some beer and maybe some wine, but that was it.

              1. De Minimis*

                I think Utah has some bizarro rules about alcohol, something about how it has to be kept out of sight even for places that serve it. Can’t remember for certain, but I think they were pressured to adapt them or change them when they had the Olympics.

                My state has some oddball rules too…liquor stores can only serve alcoholic beverages…no mixers, cups, food, any other non-alcoholic products. They also can’t have anything refrigerated, I guess for fear that people will start drinking cold beer as soon as they leave the store.

  38. Jade*

    I feel that by having a ‘Christmas’ party they are forcing their religious beliefs on me.

    Yeah, that’s a joke. Kinda.

    1. AnonyMouse*

      Hahaha, if it’s a joke it’s a good one! Somehow it totally escaped me that people were talking about not serving alcohol being like forcing your beliefs on people at a…Christmas party. And I’m not even Christian!

    2. soitgoes*

      I said something similar in a post about how to keep an office staffed over Christmas. I suggested that throwing a lunchtime Christmas party for the non-Christian employees wouldn’t be totally unwelcome (I mean, better a catered meal than whatever I’ve packed that day), but it’s kind of boneheaded the more you think about it. It would be saying, “You know that holiday that your coworkers are off celebrating? You know how you don’t celebrate it? Well here, why don’t you celebrate it?”

      I was surprised by how many people didn’t understand what I was saying. Calling it a “holiday party” isn’t much better than admitting that it’s just about Christmas. It’s not my holiday. This stuff didn’t use to bother me, but after a while it builds up when whole months are devoted to prepping for a holiday that has nothing to do with you.

      Yeah, I’m a dud at holiday parties.

  39. Manders*

    If I’m reading the letter right, it looks like employees’ spouses/partners are also invited to this event. I can imagine a certain amount of confusion stemming from the fact that this is an event including non-employees which isn’t on company property, and the non-employees are being given instructions about what they’re allowed to spend their own money on.

    Honestly, if my employer really wanted to organize a dry event, I’d be all right with that. But if my partner’s employer wanted to do the same, especially around the holidays when I might be juggling multiple party invitations, I’d probably skip out on the work party. I don’t have any obligation to attend events put on by his workplace (and thank goodness for that, because his workplace specializes in brutally boring events).

  40. CG*

    Question: are they prohibiting alcohol BECAUSE they’re Mormon or is that just the justification OP is using for why they’re doing this? (Just read as vaguely snarky to me: “They won’t let us drink because they’re Mormon and they’re trying to make everyone else adhere to their insane standards.”) Our company has an end of the fiscal year party that’s dry and a holiday party that’s open bar and, from a business standpoint, I prefer the one where I don’t have to confront a hundred shitfaced coworkers. Maybe just accept that they’re endeavoring to keep things professional at the party for a variety of reasons (not necessarily or just religious) and either save your drinking for later or don’t go at all.

  41. SallyForth*

    I can think of a lot of reasons to not allow drinking at the party and it has nothing to do with the owners being Mormon. Basically:
    1. it’s a work event and they are worried about liability for letting people go home drunk
    2. they don’t want people from the company to embarrass themselves in public
    3. their party, their rules

  42. long time reader first time poster*

    Allow me to be the outlier who would TOTALLY bitch and moan about a work party with no alcohol. That would be… work.

    Thankfully I work with a bunch of booze hounds and they’d sooner have a party without oxygen. Seriously, it’s like Mad Men around here.

    1. C Average*

      Hahahaha! Do you work at my company? We wouldn’t dream of having a function without alcohol here.

      A few years back, we had this HUGE work party. At around 11 p.m. our VP, who was clearly three sheets to the wind, got up and issued a challenge: Whoever could run the most miles before 9 a.m. the next day would get a reward. (My company is fitness-related, and culturally this was not weird at all.) The ridiculously expensive jacket I received for putting in 16 miles the next morning is still one of my most treasured pieces of company swag.

      I have never seen cocaine, random hookups, or any of the other stuff other commenters have described, but I’ve seen many spontaneous drunken displays of athleticism at company events, some leading to injury.

  43. JMegan*

    It’s very possible that the OP, or his wife, or someone else in her office, actually IS an alcoholic. And if that is the case, it’s really not polite to call them on it.

    I find all the “If you can’t make it through an evening without having a drink, then maybe you’re an alcoholic!!!!1!!” talk to be really judgmental. Some people actually are alcoholics, some people actually can’t get through an evening without having a drink. But so what? It doesn’t mean they’re going to get drunk at every occasion. Chances are most people at the office party won’t even know there’s a problem.

    Being an alcoholic doesn’t make someone a bad person. And whether they are an alcoholic or not, whether they’re aware of it or not, internet finger-pointing isn’t going to help anybody.

    1. Colette*

      I don’t think it’s unkind to point out to someone (in person or online) that they seem to have a problematic relationship with an addictive substance. It would be unkind and impolite to keep bringing it up if they have made it clear they don’t want to hear it, but sometimes it takes an outside perspective to point out when our perceptions of what is normal is out of whack.

      1. AnonyMouse*

        I think it might be mildly unkind to try to diagnose people with anything or point out a really serious issue from one post on the internet. Okay, unkind isn’t the right word…but maybe unhelpful? Unnecessary? This isn’t by any means the worst example I’ve seen, but often people will jump into a discussion about something to point out a possible mental health problem, or drinking problem, or relationship issue. Usually there isn’t enough evidence to conclude that, but even if it was a valid observation, untrained input from an anonymous stranger is really not likely to be the thing that makes the difference in a lot of these cases. In this post, for instance, I really don’t see anything to suggest that anyone involved has a drinking problem. And even if they do, it’s not particularly helpful to mention it here.

        1. Observer*

          I agree that diagnosing alcoholism from such a post is, at best, unhelpful and rather silly. But that’s a different thing than saying that it’s “unkind” to point out signs of this.

          If the LW has an alcohol problem and does not know it, then having the potential issue pointed out, could be helpful. If the OP does know he has a problem, then this should be a reminder that employers don’t have to provide you with alcohol just because you have a problem. In fact, they probably SHOULD NOT do so.

          1. AnonyMouse*

            Yeah, I don’t think “unkind” is really the right word either and I did clarify that, more unhelpful and silly like you said. I also don’t think employers have to provide anyone with alcohol, and I’ve definitely come down on the side of restricting drinking at company events being reasonable here. I was more trying to point out that I think it’s a bit unnecessary and even distracting to speculate about whether someone has a drinking problem when that’s not really hugely relevant to the question they asked and not possible to determine from the information given.

    2. Amtelope*

      Being an alcoholic does not mean that your employer should provide alcohol for you because you feel you can’t get through the evening without it.

      1. JMegan*

        I agree with you – I’m not suggesting that the company is required to supply alcohol if they don’t want to.

        My point is more about the comments that the OP (or his wife, or whoever) might have a “problem” or that they should “think about their relationship with alcohol.” They always read as judgmental to me – people often express shock or surprise, in the form of “What’s the big deal?” or “I can’t believe this is a problem!”

        For some people, it is a big deal, and it is a problem. But it’s *their* problem. And in the context of an office party, it’s pretty unlikely that it’s the kind of problem that would affect anyone else. All I’m suggesting is that we be a little more understanding on that front, and not throw around “OMG you have a PROBLEM” as if it’s such a terrible thing.

        *Not just in this thread, btw. It happens all over the internet, and (less often) in person as well.

        1. Observer*

          The point is that it is the posted who has a problem, NOT the employer who instituted the policy, not matter how paternalistic the employer may, or may not, be.

  44. Amanda*

    So I agree with the other commenters on this (it’s one night, taking offense is way too far out there, just eat delicious Mexican food and move on) but wanted to chime in with an additional story. Some years ago, I worked for a church that banned alcohol as well as stimulants of every other kind (tobacco, caffeine, etc.). Not Mormon.

    In the employee handbook, it stated that not only would they not serve alcohol at any function, but I could not order alcohol when representing the organization. So nothing at professional conferences, nothing at dinners with coworkers, networking meetings, lunches, you name it. Not a drop.

    I don’t really drink, so this wasn’t a problem for me (though once or twice I really would’ve liked to avail myself of the open bar at a fancy evening reception) but it was for other staff members. It was a high exposure/low risk kind of deal, too; I declined drinks dozens of times based on that rule in the handbook, but who would really have known that I took one, one time? And who, outside of my organization, would have known that taking that drink would be grounds for a warning if not immediate dismissal?

    It was their prerogative, but it felt weird and icky nonetheless.

    1. Katie the Fed*

      Yeah, when I was in Iraq, although I’m a civilian I fell under the same restrictions as the military, namely General Order Number 1, including no alcohol. I was invited to plenty of events with illicit alcohol, parties hosted by coalition partners (not under the same restrictions), and even some more formal events at the Embassy or elsewhere. I always declined. It made me feel like I was in high school because I was often the only one declining, but if those are the terms of the job, those are the terms. There were other considerations too (alcohol + firearms, alcohol + being surrounded by lots of men I don’t know) that made it kind of a no brainer too.

    2. De Minimis*


      It is probably somewhat different too when you’re working for an actual church, rather than for a regular business that just happens to be owned by an adherent in a particular faith. I wonder what they would view as “representing the organization…”

      I went to a college [briefly!] that had strict rules about alcohol, even if people were off campus. The rules were broken all the time, but people generally had to be careful how or when they partook, because you could be reported. I remember one girl lost her RA position because someone saw her have a drink for her 21st birthday at a restaurant way off campus [in a nearby town.]

  45. Apollo Warbucks*

    There would be a riot in my office if it wasn’t a free bar at the Christmas party let alone not being able to buy a drink.

    However owing to the cultural and religious reasons for the employer asking the party to be dry I think it is not an unreasonable request. All I can suggest is going to a bar for a few drinks after the meal if there are enough people that want to.

    If nothing else be grateful that no one will be able to embarrass themselves after drinking to much.

  46. The Maple Teacup*

    It’s pretty normal for me to have dry Christmas parties. The party this year was changed to a non-alcoholic brunch because staff kept doing some combination of getting horribly drunk, doing coke in the bathroom, having sex in the closets and throwing punches.

    1. Kerry (Like The County in Ireland)*

      Brunch parties are awesome. I mean, yeah some may still want a drink, but by moving the company party to the morning and maybe allowing a leisurely ride to the office they’d skirt a lot of these issues.

      1. The Maple Teacup*

        The organization runs an emergency housing shelter. Its a secular non-profit establishment. At my Old Job, they also had a dry Christmas Party. That place was a religious organization that worked with homeless people. I’m not sure if the alcohol ban was because of religion, or due to our client base. Either way, that party was a blast with great food, free fruit smoothies and tons of activities.

  47. PowerStruggles*

    I wanted to point out that a lot of companies are doing away with holidays parties because of the liability the company has if anyone drinks and drives and injures themselves or others it can open the company up to lawsuits. The laws vary from state to state but company sponsored events the company can still be liable

  48. Artemesia*

    A dry work event wouldn’t bother me but the idea of imposing the religious beliefs of the owners do. I am one of those people who doesn’t even think that the husband should refrain when the wife is pregnant. Maybe it is because our social life was not based on getting smashed — so it seemed absurd to me that my husband should enjoy a drink when out for dinner or at a party just because I shouldn’t drink. I suppose if getting drunk was the way their social circle socialized then it would be a bummer to have the husband getting tanked while the wife couldn’t.

  49. Not So NewReader*

    If you feel you must go or if you are ordered to go, then put in the face time and leave asap. If you don’t want to go and can opt out, then don’t go.

    OP, do people at your company like each other, or is everyone at odds all the time? How do people feel about the bosses? Do the bosses treat people decently?

    Is this the first time this has happened? What have previous parties been like? I am trying to figure out why everyone is surprised. I have heard of companies having dry parties, but usually people know and that is that.

    I am big time against companies intruding into people’s lives, being judgmental and so on. I can totally get on board with that point. If that is the underlying issue, I don’t think this example is substantive enough to make the point to the company that they are over the line. It could be that you have a company that routinely invades your personal life and that is a problem. You can develop a stronger case by using multiple examples in several areas.

  50. Tara*

    I’m not religious, but I can see how the owners might feel, assuming this is based off their Mormonism. They’re taking the employees out to dinner, so even if they don’t pay for the alcohol, they are indirectly responsible for it being consumed. I know next to nothing about LDS, but is it possible they feel they would be committing a transgression in this case? I don’t agree they have the right to control what their employees spend their own money on, however.

  51. Megan*

    Funnily enough, I just got an email for details for my staff Christmas party. It’s just a casual job.
    It’s on a Tuesday from 330-7pm, and it specifically said no alcohol.
    However, about 50% of the staff is underage so I don’t see this as a big deal.
    What I do, though, is that its held at a LAWN BOWLS CENTER (did I mention most people are teens?! Or twenties?!) and we have to wear white, and there was a picture of someone playing bowls.
    Seriously people.

    1. Cath in Canada*

      That sounds like fun! My husband and I have been semi-jokingly wondering when we’ll be old enough to try and join the lawn bowls centre in our local park for a few years now :)

      We had a great Christmas party at a curling rink once, complete with lessons. The instructor was awfully grumpy and obviously hated her job, but apart from that it was great. We did drink beer though, drinking beer being the raison d’etre of curling.

  52. Julia*

    Your wife could round up a group of coworkers to head to a bar after dinner that night to have a drink or two. A free dinner is still a nice gesture, whether or not there’s alcohol included.

  53. David*

    All great comments – thank you all for your opinions! My main concern over this thing was 1) can they impose this restriction from a legal standpoint and 2) the manor in which they presented their request by saying “alcohol is forbidden” and “you are forbidden to purchase at the restaurant during the party” rather than something a bit softer as Alison pointed out. Yes, it’s only a couple of hours… and no, I’m not that much of a lush that I couldn’t eat my Queso Chimi without the world’s best Margarita. I personally feel that my wife’s employer fell short with their approach. My Mormon friends are always concerned about their religion being misunderstood. This may have been a great opportunity for them to educate rather than to dictate.

    1. Zillah*

      I totally see why the phrasing would bother you.

      On the subject of legal, though – they could legally impose a restriction of “no drinking ever while you work for us,” assuming that you’re in the United States – you can impose any restriction you like as long as it doesn’t target protected classes, and banning alcohol use doesn’t. A sane employer almost certainly wouldn’t do that, because it’s ridiculously restrictive, but they legally could.

  54. Jenna*

    I can see that some people would be annoyed by the restriction on alcohol, but, one night without alcohol would have a hard time beating the worst company party that I ever attended. The branch manager at this party was pressuring the employees to buy shots for all the rest of the sales and management guys(It was just about all men at that branch. The wives were assumed to be designated drivers.). There were enough people there that that added up to quite a bit of alcohol and only one guy had the guts to say no(good enough sales numbers and enough standing with Corporate that he had no fear of the branch manager). There was quite a bit of pressure applied to continue and buy shots and drink. One guy who did not have a designated driver took a nap before heading home, and was still drunk enough that when he was pulled over a mile from his house he was given a DUI.
    Which meant that he was now unable to be promoted to outside sales for ten years.
    Wheeee! Such a fun party! Not.
    (I was there as a spouse and assumed designated driver. I would actually have liked a margarita, thank you very much. )

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